John James Audubon and his Birds of America

An illustration of Atlantic puffins.  Engraved print on paper. Plate 213 in The Birds of America (1834).

An illustration of Atlantic puffins.  Engraved print on paper. Plate 213 in The Birds of America (1834).

  • Returns 13 January 2023

This exhibition has now closed. A new display will open on 13 January 2023.

This free display of engravings from John James Audubon's The Birds of America reaffirms why it continues to inspire artists, bird experts and conservationists alike.  

John James Audubon was born in 1785. A self-taught wildlife artist, he spent twenty years travelling North America to record birds for his book. Published between 1827 and 1838, the 435 prints transformed bird illustration through realistic proportions, animated poses and innovative new printing techniques. The Birds of America is a feat of artistry and technical skill.

Display highlights include:

  • full-size engravings from The Birds of America 
  • a taxidermy specimen of the species depicted in the engravings
  • a volume of Ornithological Biographythe companion volume to The Birds of America
  • a portrait of Audubon by Lance Calkin 
  • insights into Audubon's groundbreaking artistic methods 
  • details of the printing process that brought The Birds of America to life

Highlights

Anna's hummingbird

Plate 425 in The Birds of America depicts three hummingbirds hovering as they feed from hibiscus flowers.

Bird of Washington

Plate 11 depicts Falco washingtonii, claimed to be one of the first bird species to be discovered by Audubon. However, no concrete evidence has been found to suggest the existence of this animal.

Northern bobwhite

Plate 76 in The Birds of America depicts the dramatic moment when a red-tailed hawk descends on a group of northern bobwhite quails.