I have seen my blog described on another site as "boring and interesting at the same time." Today I plan to test the truth of that assessment as far as possible. I know this post rings the bell on boring. Only you can decide if it is also interesting.
But exactly how Audubon was able to capture our feathered friends' likenesses so completely is usually glossed over. The Encyclopedia Britannica fails to even broach the subject. The Audubon Society's page on their namesake mentions that he loves to hunt, but the connection is never explicitly made.
Audubon Shot All The Birds He Painted.
He then used wires to pose the corpses of these hawks, falcons, partridges, sparrows, woodpeckers, and other winged creatures before putting brush to canvas. In one diary entry, he writes about sneaking up on a large group of sleeping pelicans and blasting two of them before his gun was jammed and the two awakened survivors took off (he was disappointed that he didn't get to kill them all.) And when hunting snoozing avians in the wild was too much trouble, he resorted to other methods. He once bought a caged eagle, killed it, then captured its likeness.
One of Audubon's biographers, Duff Hart-Davis, reveals: "The rarer the bird, the more eagerly he pursued it, never apparently worrying that by killing it he might hasten the extinction of its kind."
Over 1,000 individual birds appear in Audubon's paintings, but we know that the body count is much higher. He did't feel some kills were worthy of being painted. Others were put on canvas, but the artist was dissatisfied with his work and never displayed it. In other cases, he had already painted a specific type of bird but then found an intriguing individual variation, so he just had to blow it away.
He once wrote: "I call birds few when I shoot less than one hundred per day."
(#65 of the 100 Things You Are Not Supposed To Know by Russ Kick.)