Monday, February 8, 2010

Poor Haiti? The Influence of John James Audubon

There’s been plenty in the news at the moment about Haiti - the country seems to have more bad luck than anywhere in the Caribbean. Around 150,000 people are now thought to have died as a result of the earthquake on 7th January this year, and the figure is thought to finish close to double that. So here’s a bit of inconsequential, but interesting information.

Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon, “the artist of birds”, was born in Les Cayes, Haiti in 1785. He moved to the United States as a young man in 1803 to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic War and made his fame there recording many of North Americas species by drawing them. His name has spawned birding societies throughout the world. He is most famous of course for his collected Birds of America, published between 1827 and 1838, which includes 435 hand-coloured engravings.

Even now after 150 years they hold their own as superb examples of a craftsmen and artist at work. Charles Darwin quotes Audubon three times in Origin of the Species and many of his later works, and a copy of Birds of America in excellent condition sold at Christie’s in March, 2000 for $8,802,500!

Haiti Island Guide

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