Philadelphia: Audubon, J.J., 1844. Imperial Folio Edition. Single sheet matted in rag board. Plate CVIII. Lepus Bachmani, Waterhouse (Bachman's Hare, natural size).
Original hand-colored lithograph by JT Bowen after painting by John Woodhouse Audubon, for the Imperial Folio Edition of the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Very Fine condition with bright and rich original hand-coloring. Full margins; 22 x 28 inches.
The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (Philadelphia c.1845-48) represents the culmination of a lifelong dream held by America's most prominent naturalist and visionary, John James Audubon (1785-1851). Following the completion of his magnum opus, the Double Elephant Folio Edition of Birds of America, c. 1824-38, Audubon was at liberty to pursue a project close to his heart, large scale portraits of all of North America's native animals. Audubon's effort to render America four-legged (thus quadruped) mammals in their natural settings pioneered the way for an entire culture of naturalist artists and engravers. Once the animals were placed within their native habitat, inspired by Audubon's classical composition and watchful eye, most subsequent naturalist painters rarely presented animals and birds void of a full botanical perch, landscaped setting, or woodland background. Very few, if any naturalist artists returned to the solo vignette so commonly found in most natural history works from the previous three centuries.
Audubon's dream to complete this monumental work was made manifest through the artistic and clerical assistance of his two sons, John Woodhouse and Victor Gifford, as well as the Reverend John Bachman, who contributed the excellent text for the production.
Today, the tale of Audubon's westward journey to hunt and gather skins and specimens and thus inspiration to complete the 155 paintings for the Quadrupeds is common enough. The story of how he sold his work through subscription format and created a smaller (Royal Octavo Edition) as a more democratic and affordable option to the production has been told religiously, and in great detail, by anyone reviewing these masterpieces once again. Yet through these critiques, America's premier ornithologist, painter and naturalist has gained his rightful place among the masters of Animal Portraiture, painters like Edwin Landseer and George Stubbs.
Regardless of any criticism his artistic practices and personal affairs may have encountered, Audubon's legacy has enriched our understanding and appreciation of America's native species, both birds and animals. In addition, through Audubon's paintings we are offered the very first glimpses of the American landscape west of the Mississippi, as his work predates that of the Hudson River Artists.
(Blum, Picturing Nature, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Sabin 2367, Wood 208). Fine with rich original hand-coloring. Item #5725