Audubon Havell Edition Pl. 411, Common American Swan
Oppenheimer Editions Print
26 1/2" x 39 1/4"
Limited edition of 150
Blind embossed with the Oppenheimer Editions and Field Museum logos
The Oppenheimer Field Museum Edition of Audubon's Fifty Best Birds
The lavish double-elephant-size folio of The Birds of America, spectacularly launched John James Audubon’s career as an artist-naturalist and publisher of natural history folios. In Edinburgh, the Scottish engraver W. H. Lizars began to produce the very first plates in 1826. However, after the completion of only ten plates, W. H. Lizars’ colorists went on strike. Work on the folio continued with the London engraver Robert Havell, who engraved and colored The Birds of America from 1827—1838. The completed work comprised 435 hand-colored engravings. Robert Havell also retouched W. H. Lizars’ original efforts, adding aquatint to the engraving and etching. On those plates, Robert Havell’s name appears alongside that of the Scottish engraver’s.
John James Audubon sold 186 subscriptions to the complete folio of The Birds of America, each of which commanded the princely sum of $1,000 — the cost of a substantial home at that time. Published on sheets measuring 26 1/2 by 39 inches, called double-elephant by the printing trade, the aquatint engravings depict each subject in its actual size and are among the largest ever made. Still, John James Audubon often altered the larger birds’ natural postures, creatively composing the figure to fit within the dimensions of the sheet. Of the 186 complete sets produced, more than 100 are intact in library and museum collections worldwide. Since first produced by Robert Havell over 175 years ago, few of the sets have been broken to make individual prints available for sale. Joel Oppenheimer, Inc. specializes in these rare, original engravings, maintaining an extensive inventory, many in exceptionally fine condition.
John James Audubon explored the American backwoods and wilderness to discover, record, and illustrate its avian life. America’s most revered artist-naturalist, 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. Fascinated by nature since childhood, it was not until 1819, when he was the father of two sons, that John James Audubon fully embraced the life of an artist-naturalist. In 1820, John James Audubon left his family in Cincinnati, embarking with a young apprentice, Joseph R. Mason. Joseph R. Mason worked with John James Audubon from 1820 until 1822, contributing mostly botanical elements to about 55 of John James Audubon’s paintings. Later, the artists George Lehman, Maria Martin, and his sons Victor Gifford Audubon and John Woodhouse Audubon assisted John James Audubon with botanical and landscape backgrounds.
Established in 1999, Oppenheimer Editions has partnered with prestigious museums to make prints from their holdings. Works from the New-York Historical Society’s unrivaled collections of John James Audubon’s watercolors and the Hudson River School paintings are examples of art that otherwise would be unobtainable. Among the institutional collections we have partnered with are the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. These are not mere reproductions. They are limited-edition fine art prints made with the finest quality archival pigments on rag watercolor paper and executed to exacting standards.