Audubon Works from William Reese
By Michael Stillman
John James Audubon's drawings of birds are today among the most revered of American works of art. They are of such extraordinary beauty that it's hard to remember that they were more scientific works at the time, designed to introduce the world to forms of life it had never seen, accurately more than artistically reproduced. He proved that God, or nature, is the finest artist of all. The William Reese Company has issued its 11th Art Bulletin, containing nine Audubon items, including many plates from the famed double elephant folio edition of his wondrous Bird of America. Here is what is being offered.
Item 1 is the 1860 re-issue of John James Audubon's Birds of America by his son, John Woodhouse Audubon. The younger Audubon took his father's drawings and republished them in the original double elephant folio size, using the newly developed chromolithography process to reproduce the color drawings. However, only 150, about a third of the originals, were completed, as many of the subscribers were lost when the Civil War intervened. Included is the double elephant folio atlas and eight (in four) text volumes. Priced at $585,000.
Item 2 is the gorgeous Trumpeter Swan drawing (plate 406) from the original folio edition, released in 1838. $120,000.
Item 3 is an oil painting of the American Goldfinch, created by Audubon and Joseph Bartholomew Kidd is 1831. Audubon believed that these paintings could be used for a profitable traveling exhibition, but the relationship between him and Kidd had broken down by 1834 and the exhibitions never took place. $195,000.
Item 4 is an 1831 letter from Audubon to his brother-in-law, William Bakewell, discussing his Ornithological Biography, the text which accompanied the folio first of Birds of America. $11,000.
Item 5 is an 1856 three-volume set of Audubon's Quadrupeds of North America, his follow-up study of American mammals. $13,500.
Item 6 is the first octavo edition from 1840-44 of Birds of America. This version was an enormous commercial success and provided Audubon with the financial rewards that had previously eluded him. $125,000.
Item 7 is the folio image of the Blue Crane or Heron (plate 307) published in 1837. $80,000
Item 8 is the Columbia Jay, also from the folio (plate 96), printed in 1831. $29,500.
Item 9 is one of the most beautiful of all of Audubon's folio prints, the Snowy Owl (plate 121) from 1831. $125,000.
The William Reese Company is found online at www.reeseco.com, phone number 203-789-8081.