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Friday, March 10, 2006

John James Audubon

Last night we met John James Audubon who spoke at the Sanibel Captiva Audubon Society. Well it wasn’t really John James Audubon, since he has been dead for 155 years. It was Tom Burack impersonating him. Tom is an accomplished storyteller, environmental and corporate lawyer and Honorary Trustee of New Hampshire Audubon. Dressed as Audubon, Tom spoke in the lilting, heavily accented English that would have been Audubon’s voice and proceeded to try and sell the audience subscriptions to his famous work, Birds of North America.

John James Audubon (1785-1851) is a famous painter who created the publication, Birds of North America, a collection of 435 magnificent life-size prints, one of the great ornithological feats.

After a career as a business man he fell on hard times and turned to his painting hobby to make a living. Audubon travelled around this country in a quest to see and paint all the birds of America. Before he could paint the birds, he had to shoot them, because in those days there were no binoculars or cameras. After shooting he would prop the birds on wires and quickly paint them.

He sailed to England with his partly finished portfolio, met instant success and raised enough money to publish Birds of America. His paintings were made into engraved plates. The prints from the plates were then hand colored. In today’s world many people collect Audubon prints which come from the original books.

John James Audubon was a great woodsman, naturalist and painter. In 1905 the National Audubon Society was named after him.

If he were alive today he would probably be using a high end digital camera, long telephoto lenses and Photoshop CS to capture beautiful images of birds.

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