John J. Audubon, Plate 367, Green Heron, Birds of America, Bien Edition, 1860

$9,800 this week only (list price $14,000). Offer expires 7-24-17

Joel Oppenheimer

John J. Audubon, Pl. 367 Green HeronThe Birds of America, Bien edition, 1860, chromolithograph

Acquire a rare work from the Bien edition of John J. Audubon's Birds of AmericaPl. 367 Green Heron, Ardea viracens, Linn., current species name, Butorides virecens.This richly colored chromolithograph is being offered at a special price this week only.  

In The Original Watercolors for the Birds of America, Roberta J.M. Olson writes that Audubon first exhibited the watercolor made preparatory for this composition in 1826, and that it was probably first executed while he was working in Louisiana 1821—22. Providing insight into the ingenious collage technique Audubon employed to create this composition, she observes, "[H]e was still proud of his unique representation of this species as a tableau in which the fully fledged juvenile at the left energetically snaps at the luna moth (which may have been the work of Joseph Mason). In the right middle ground is JJA's cut-out of the complacent but watchful male, who lurks half hidden in the vegetation. He inventively cut out three of the leaf's sides from the support sheet, lifted the flap up, and slipped the the cut-out adult bird underneath for a three-dimensional effect in which the image literally pops." 

In the text that accompanies this plate 

in the Ornithological Biography or account of the habits of birds of the United States of America, Audubon reveals the reason why he chose to depict the adult male and young. "The young attain their full beauty in the second spring, but continue to grow for at least another year. The changes which they exhibit, although by no means so remarkable as those of Ardea rufescens and A. coerulea, have proved sufficient to cause mistakes among authors who had nothing but skins on which to found their decisions. I have given figures of an adult in full plumage, and of an immature bird, to enable you to judge how carefully Nature ought to be studied to enable you to keep free of mistakes."

In perfect condition, chromolithograph with additional hand coloring, 1860, double-elephant folio size, 26.625 x 39.25 inches.

References: 

The Original Watercolors for the Birds of America, Roberta J.M. Olson, page 322; 

The Birds of America from Drawings Made in the United States and their Territories, John J. Audubon, re-issued by J.W. Audubon. 

Vol. V1, 1861, page 107.


 $9,800 this week only (list price $14,000). Offer expires 7-24-17.

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Produced between 1858 and 1860, the Bien edition of Audubon’s Birds of America is the largest and most valuable color plate book ever published in America, and the rarest of all Audubon folios. Also of double-elephant dimensions (27 x 40 inches), this edition represents one of the finest examples of early large-scale color printing. The new technique of chromolithography was perceived as an advancement in print-making technology that promised to achieve effects entirely different from engraving.

John James Audubon (1785–1851), is renowned for his extraordinary undertaking to record the birds of America. The images he created are icons of 19th-century art. Having studied and drawn birds since childhood, in 1819, Audubon followed his passion and fully embraced the life of an artist-naturalist, embarking on a mission to create the Birds of America. He explored the American backwoods and wilderness to discover, record, and illustrate its avian life. It was not until he reached the shores of Great Britain with a portfolio laden with his bird portraits that Audubon found an engraver who could produce his great work in the size of life, as he desired. Together with London engraver, Robert Havell, J. J. Audubon and his family created the lavish double-elephant-size Havell edition of aquatint engravings of The Birds of America, published 1827–38.

Seven years after their father’s death, Audubon’s sons, John Woodhouse Audubon and Victor Gifford Audubon, began an American edition of The Birds of America with Julius Bien, a New York-based printer who was pioneering the field of chromolithography. Bien transferred the images from Havell’s copper plates onto lithographic stones. As many as six printing stages with additional hand-drawn lithography and coloring were used to reproduce subtleties found in the Havell engravings.

As the Havell edition was, the Bien edition was also sold by subscription beginning in 1858. Production was brought to a halt by the advent of the Civil War and only 150 plates on 105 sheets were completed. The Audubon family was unable to complete and sell the edition or recoup their losses, which led to a devastating bankruptcy. The consensus is that fewer than seventy folios were completed.

For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.

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