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Audubon's Aviary: The Final Flight Soars at New-York Historical Society

March 5, 2015 - by Linda Sheridan
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Calling all ornithologists! To help New Yorkers spirits soar into spring, The New-York Historical Society presents Audubon’s Aviary: The Final Flight (Part III of the Complete Flock), which concludes the acclaimed series showcasing masterpieces from its collection of John James Audubon’s preparatory watercolors for the sumptuous double-elephant-folio print edition of The Birds of America.

On view March 6 through May 10, The Final Flight highlights Audubon’s watercolor models for Havell engraved plates, depicting more than 180 species, including the Great Auk, California Condor, American Flamingo, Great Grey Owl, Gyrfalcon and others. The exhibit is curated by Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, Curator of Drawings at the New York Historical Society.

John James Audubon, American Flamingo

To enhance the experience, visitors can use magnifiying glasses to see the great detail of charcoal, chalk and watercolors used in each piece. Many also include notes written by Audubon about dates, species details, locations, and more. There are also listening devices available where you can type in a number and listen to the call of each bird portrayed in the exhibit.

Considered America’s first great watercolorist, the legendary naturalist Audubon “is the first artist to capture birds life sized,” says Dr. Olson. “He also invented collage, and is a great advocate for conservation.” His years drawing portraits to support his family, coupled with his passion for drawing birds, enabled him to capture the individuality of each species in great detail.

In addition to the exhibit, Audubon Society began in Oct. 2014, working on a public initiative, the Audubon Mural Project. “Climate change will be affecting [the fates] of 314 species of birds,” says Agatha Szczepaniak, senior media relations manager. The Mural Project, headed up by Avi Gitler, is commissioning artists to paint murals of each of the 314 birds at risk of extinction, between the streets of the George Washington Bridge up to approximately 125th Street. "Audubon lived his final ten years in New York, and is also buried here,” says Dr. Olson.

For more information on this exhibit, visit nyhistory.orgFor more information on the Audubon Mural Project, visit audubonmuralproject.org.

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