Birds Of Central Park: Audubon's Watercolors
Audubon's spectacular watercolors depict year-round residents of Central Park and migratory denizens, as well as several rare species. In these dazzling drawings, Audubon's innovations in the fields of art and natural history are apparent. He not only rendered the birds life-size, but also captured their lively interactions, sometimes with anthropomorphic characteristics, in cutting-edge, experimental mixed media. The names of species in the exhibition labels do not always reflect current nomenclature.*
In 1863 the Historical Society purchased this rare trove of watercolors, deemed by some a national treasure, directly by subscription from the famed naturalist's widow, Lucy Bakewell Audubon (1787–1874). Normally four to six at a time are showcased in quarterly annual migrations in the Historical Society's Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture in the "Audubon Niche." But on this sesquicentennial occasion, a larger selection is installed in honor of Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted's and Calvin Vaux's "natural" Manhattan oasis for birds and humans.
* Due to developments in ornithology and taxonomy, some of the birds that Audubon "captured," while having similar names to birds inhabiting Central Park, may not, in fact, be the identical avian species.