John James Audubon is revered as one of the most gifted naturalist-illustrators of the nineteenth century. So it is hard to believe that, following his death, his widow Lucy had trouble finding a repository for her husband's legacy. In 1862, Mrs. Audubon offered the New-York Historical Society the original drawings used to produce Audubon's seminal work, The Birds of America, and though it would take a year to raise the funds needed to acquire the drawings, in 1863 New-York Historical finally purchased all 435 preparatory watercolors, plus thirty-four other works. Today, New-York Historical has the largest holdings of Audubon-related material in the world.
A limited selection of the holdings are on view in the Luce Center. All 474 watercolors in the collection will be on display in Audubon's Aviary.