The rediscovery of Audubon’s remarkable, jewel-like original paintings of butterflies, moths, and other insects, as well as small reptiles, has provided the basis for the present work. Never before have these studies been reproduced. Handed down through four generations from Mrs. Charles Basham, to whom Audubon presented the album in 1824, the water colors the artist created in the bayou regions of New Orleans and Natchez are for the first time made accessible to the public through the courtesy of Mrs. Kirby Chambers, their present owner.
These lovely renderings, achieved when little or no reference material existed on American entomology, represent an extraordinary pioneering effort in line – on a more modest scale – with Audubon’s monumental Birds and Animals. Complementing these exquisite water colors, a selection of Audubon’s immortal bird paintings of the same period and region (among them the much loved bluebird and hummingbird) are presented in color. These faithful reproductions introduce the reader to the true genius of Audubon, unknown to countless admirers without access to the rare originals.
Alice Ford’s fascinating and authentic account of many forgotten episodes in the artist’s life, and of his meetings with other artist-scientists of his pioneer era, is further highlighted with a few selected works of these contemporaries. These additional drawings provide a fresh impression of the very earliest activities in the field of entomological and reptilian research in America. Maria Martin, Audubon’s heretofore mysterious assistant who contributed so tellingly to his Birds, not only comes to life in these pages but emerges as an accomplished nature illustrator in her own right. No artist’s life makes more absorbing reading than Audubon’s, and the author has brought together a host of romantically vivid and historically accurate incidents that give us a remarkable picture of his life, particularly at the time he was engaged on the sketchbook.