John J. Audubon, Pl 54 Arkansaw Flycatcher, Swallow Tailed Flycatcher, and Say's Flycatcher and Pl. 55 Pipiry Flycatcher, The Birds of America, Bien edition, 1860, chromolithograph
Acquire a beautiful double plate from the Bien edition of John J. Audubon's Birds of America, Pl. 54 Arkansaw Flycatcher, Swallow Tailed Flycatcher, Say's Flycatcher and Pl. 55 Pipiry Flycatcher, offered this week only at a special price. Forty-five of 105 plates in the Bien edition are double plates representing 90 smaller species that are primarily song and shore birds.
On the left is Plate 55, in which Audubon depicted the Pipiry Flycatcher, Musicapa dominicensis, on a branch of the Australian Corkwood tree, Agati grandiflora. The current name for this bird is Gray Kingbird, Tyrannus grisens. George Lehman assisted in painting the botanical in 1832 while accompanying Audubon on his expedition to Florida.
On the right is Plate 54, which includes several birds drawn from specimens provided by Thomas Nuttall. On the top branch, upper left and right, are a male and female Say's Flycatcher, Musicapa saya, (Bonap.). The current name is Say's Phoebe, Sayornis saya (Bonap.). On the branch below left, is the Swallow Tailed Flycatcher, Muscapa forficata. The current name of this species is Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Tyrannus foticata (Gmelin). The birds perching in the middle and bottom right are Arkansaw flycatchers, Musicapa verticalis, Bonap. The current name for this species is Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis, Say.
An Index and Guide to Audubon's Birds of America;, Susanne M. Low, 1988, pages 92 and 155 The Birds of America, from Drawings made in the United States, John J. Audubon,Vol. I, 1840, page 197–202; The Original Water-color Paintings by John James Audubon for the Birds of America, introduction by Marshall B. Davidson, 1966, Volume 2, plate 358 and plate 288.
$2,850 this week only (list price $4,200). Offer expires 10-2-17.
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.