John James Audubon’s seminal Birds of America, a collection of 435 life-size prints, is still a standard against which 20th and 21st century bird artists are measured. Frameworks Gallery is an Authorized John J. Audubon “The Birds of America” Audubon Centennial Edition Dealer.

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About 1820, around the age of 35, Audubon declared his intention to paint every bird in North America. In his bird art, he mainly forsook oil paint, the medium of serious artists of the day, in favor of watercolors and pastel crayons (and occasionally pencil, charcoal, chalk, gouache, and pen and ink).

The original edition of Birds of America  was printed on handmade paper 39.5 inches tall by 28.5 inches wide, and is housed at Trinity College. The principal printing technique was copperplate etching, but engraving and aquatint were also used. Watercolor was then added by hand. Audubon funded the costly printing project through a pay-as-you-go subscription. From 1826 to 1829, he travelled around the UK and to Paris, lecturing on ornithology and frontier American life in an effort to entice wealthy patrons to subscribe to the series of prints. Subscribers included the French king Charles X, the British queen Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Lord Spencer, and, later, the Americans Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.

Prints were issued in sets of five every month or two in tin cases and each set usually included one very large bird, one medium-sized bird, and three small birds. In 1838, at the end of the thirteen-year project, 435 plates (87 sets of five) had been issued.

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