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John James Audubon Gallery     Prints.     Full biography.
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Audubon was born in Haiti, the illegitimate son of a French sea captain and his mistress, and raised in France by his stepmother. In 1803 his father obtained a false passport for for him to travel to the United States to avoid the draft for the Napoleonic Wars. He sailed down the Mississippi intent on finding and painting all the birds of North America. In order to draw or paint the birds, he had to shoot them. Between 1827 and 1839 he published Birds of America, a book of bird paintings and, with William MacGillivray, Ornithological Biographies. His final work was on mammals, the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. He is buried in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery at 155th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, New York.
Sea Eagle
Farmyard Fowls
Fox and Goose
Bald Eagle
Osprey and the Otter


Bald Eagle (White-headed Eagle), 1827-1838
Hand-colored aquatint/engraving on Whatman paper, sheet: 38 1/4 x 25 1/4in.

Early in his quest to see and paint all North American birds, Audubon voyaged down the Mississippi on a flatboat. In one day of this trip, he shot five Bald Eagles, a normal practice for Audubon when he was collecting specimens to serve his detailed studies of plumage for his art. He was devoted to and charmed by birds but thought nothing of taking them for study, food, and sport. A century and a half ago, Bald Eagles were much more common than today. This image is one plate from the Museum's complete first edition of The Birds of America.
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