In his boyhood, famed ornithologist, explorer, and wildlife artist John James Audubon (1785-1851) had been fascinated with watching and drawing birds.
One of the most influential naturalists of all time, he was a naturalized U.S. citizen, born in the French colony of St. Dominique (now Haiti) and raised in France's lush green Loire Valley.
Audubon moved to his father's farm in Philadelphia in 1803. Overwhelmed by the countryside's natural splendor, he began to draw birds, driven with the passion to render every North American bird in "its natural size and coloring." He was a self-taught artist with no academic credentials.
But he had desire.
"We need the tonic of wildness [and]...Nature," wrote writer Henry David Thoreau about the importance of nature to the soul.
By 1820, with a string of failed businesses behind him and the steadfast desire to keep drawing, Audubon made art his full-time vocation. With easel, pastels, and pencils in hand, he traveled the American frontier sketching birds in their habitats, capturing their realistic images in poses suggestive of sudden movement.
He took 12 years to complete the folios for his collection Birds of America (1839) which featured 435 hand-colored plates of 1,065 individual birds. French naturalist George Cuvier said Audubon had created "the most magnificent monument that art had yet raised to science."
Environmentalist Wallace Stenger once wrote, "Wildness can be a way of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope."
With his art, Audubon gave the world the beauty of birds in flight, dazzling and dramatic miracles of nature in their natural settings. The geography of hope. He inspired the creation of the National Audubon Society (1905), which is dedicated to the study and preservation of wildlife and natural resources.
More Art & Artists Quotations
The joy of nature is being able to see her beauty.