John James Audubon (1785-1851). Plate 63. “Wood Pewee.” From The Birds of America.
New York: J. Bien, 1860. Second edition. 26 ½ x 19 15/16 (sheet). Chromolithograph. Bottom right corner chipped. Light nine inch vertical crinkling/creases in paper left hand side away from the image. Else, fair condition. A/A
The Bien edition featured many prints with two small birds printed on one double elephant folio sheet in order to make the project more economical. Over the centuries, the two images were divided in order to have each bird framed individually. Such is the case for this print.
John James Audubon, known both for his romantic life and his superb prints, is the most famous of all American natural history artists. For his pioneering travel around the United States in search of new subjects in the wild, his lifelike and dramatic style, and his monumental works on the birds and quadrupeds of North America, Audubon is, perhaps, also the greatest American natural history artist. In 1827 Audubon began to issue the prints from the first edition of his monumental The Birds of America, which when completed ran to a total of 435 double elephant folio prints. Because of the continued strong demand for the prints, a second edition was begun in 1860. Published in New York, the second edition prints were lithographs printed in color, a relatively new and expensive process at the time. This brilliant chromolithography marks these prints as a distinctive production, adding significantly to Audubon’s oeuvre. With the disruptions caused by the Civil War, this edition was never completed, and so these prints are even rarer than those of the first edition. As the first totally American Audubon elephant folio bird prints, matching those of the first edition in beauty and drama, these are wonderful pieces of American history.
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