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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


Osprey and the Otter and the Salmon, 1844, oil on canvas, 38 x 62 inches.

ASU Art Museum. John James Audubon's painting The Osprey and the Otter and the Salmon in the ASU Art Museum collection is characteristic of the artist's style and subject matter, but also unusual. The dramatic struggle for existence in nature and the attention to detail- the snarl of the otter, the pointed beak and sharp talons of the osprey, the red blood dripping from the side of the fish, and the textures of fur, feathers and scales-- add to the realism and excitement of the painting. The artist portrayed the bird and the otter in the wild, not as flat, lifeless specimens. The rich colors of the painting add to the drama and detail of the scene.

The Osprey and the Otter and the Salmon is similar to paintings in collections in Europe and North America. The date and signature are curious, as Audubon did not usually sign his oil paintings, and the date does not coincide with the years when he was in England producing such paintings to sell. The problem is not unique, for Audubon worked with other artists and his sons, leading to confusion as to the attribution of his works. Many of the questions about this painting have come up recently, and there is more research to be done to solve the mystery. Whatever the outcome, The Osprey and the Otter and the Salmon is an example of the growing interest in nature in the nineteenth century, and of the great influence that John James Audubon, an artist and a naturalist, had on the art of his time.
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