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John James Audubon (1785-1851)

Born: April 26, 1785
Died: 1851
Nationality: American

Biography of John James Audubon

John James Audubon was the son of a French Naval Captain, who served in the American Revolution. Born on April 26, 1785, in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, Audubon was taken to France after the death of his mother. At the age of four, he attended a military school and then later studied drawing under the neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David.

At 18, Audubon returned to America to manage family property on a farm near Philadelphia. It was here that Audubon met and married his wife, Lucy, whose support was critical in achieving his success. During his early married years, he was unsuccessful in business and attained fame as an artist only after many troubled years.

Audubon devoted his life to the study of natural history and began by making drawings of American birds. Around 1820, he decided to make it his life work. Successful exhibitions of his drawings followed after the many years of struggle and he began publication on The Birds of America in 1821. Finished in 1838, the book consisted of 435 hand-colored folio plates depicting 1065 life-size birds; it is today considered a classic work in ornithology and American art. Published after his death on January 27, 1851 was a 150-page folio plate filled book titled the Viviparous Quadrupeds. This ornithologist and artist whose extensive observations of eastern North American birds is noted for his realistic portrayals of wildlife.

In 1886, an editor by the name of George Bird Grinnell encouraged his readers to join him in forming the country’s first bird preservation organization; the society was named after Audubon. Later, other Audubon Societies formed end created a loose alliance called the National Committee of the Audubon Societies. In 1905, it was incorporated into the National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals.

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