( Originally Published 1955 )
Said to have been born in Santo Domingo, Audubon's early life was shrouded in mystery, even giving rise to the legend that he was the lost Dauphin. He was brought up in France and came first to the U.S. in 1804. According to his Journal he returned in 1806 to France and spent several months in the studio of J. L. David. He came again to the U.S. in 1807, and after various unsuccessful business ventures, portrait painting, and teaching he turned to ornithology, spending many years in studying the birds of America. In 1826 he took his results to London where they were engraved and issued singly from 1827 until 1838. when they were finally collected under the title The Birds of America (the text, Ornithological Biography, was issued later). Back in the U.S. the work was reissued in smaller format editions and before his death he managed to produce with his father-in-law one volume of the projected Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Though not intended as art, his paintings of nature are imbued with a magnificent sense of design-meticulous yet monumental, displaying originality in color and brilliance in draughtsmanship.