John James Audubon: The Making of an American

John James Audubon: The Making of an American

by Richard Rhodes


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John James Audubon: The Making of an American 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John James Audubon, born illegitimately in Haiti as Jean Rabin, he grew up in France as Jean-Jacques Audubon, returning to America to escape the Napoleonic Wars. Quite successful as an entrepreneur and merchant in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, he was ruined by the panic of 1819. He turned his hobby of painting into his profession, painting portraits for cash and birds for pleasure. Traveling across the United States in search of money and birds, he amassed the basis for his opus magnum: The Birds of America. This project of creating life-sized color illustrations of American birds needed rich financial backers which only bird-mad Britain could supply in numbers. Thus, Audubon shuttled between the Old and the New World in search of subscribers and birds. Only sixty complete sets of Audubon's elephant folio version of The Birds of America exist, making them instantly extremely valuable. Audubon lived in an age prior to merchandising and Kickstarter, thus, despite achieving quite respectable turnover figures, he could never cash in on his work.The paperback version of the book is beautiful with many high-quality color illustrations and numerous b/w ones throughout the text. Sometimes, Rhodes as a non-specialist misses obvious connections and parallels, e.g. Audubon and Albert Gallatin were both originally French-speaking European immigrants to Pennsylvania with key interests in classification. This is, however, only a quibble about a splendid and highly recommended biography.
Historygrrrl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great read and an incisive portrait of a complex man
Cygnus555 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first Biography! huh! I strongly recommend this book - excellent read. My perception of JJ Audubon was popped when I was younger when I heard how he actually shot many of the birds he painted. The Horror! For some reason, this unconscious negative stayed with me into my adulthood. My Sister gave me this book for Christmas and I quickly became engrossed in the details of this amazing man's life. I quite liked the biography genre as well. I left the book longingly and now have a new appreciation of his life and the context under which he shot so many birds!
Woodcut55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most compelling stories I have read of an American Artist who invented himself and his medium. A great American man completely original.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best and most comprehensive of the three recent Audubon biographies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
&square Poppystar &square <p> Age &square 25 Moons <p> Gender &square &female <p> Rank &square Leader <p> Appearance &square Poppystar is a lithe ginger tabby with soft cornflower blue eyes. Her paws are a delicate white, and she has a lock of snowy fur on her chest. Despite her soft appearance, she can have a fiery and biting temper. <p> Kin &square Firpelt {Mother; deceased}, Hawkrain {Father; deceased}, Gorgeclaw {Brother; missing}, and Featherkit {Sister; deceased} <p> Crush &square None. <p> Mate &square Never have had one. <p> Kits &square Nope. <p> RPer &square NRM &#22767
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely well written, entertaining must read biography about an American Icon. An Icon who was, in fact, an illegitimate French man born in Haiti who came to America via France to escape the Napoleon military draft. It is, of course, interesting that today when we seem to dislike everything French that this amazing, artistic early American icon was very French. Here we experience how Audubon¿s personal character is developed as he transforms himself through family, his passion for birds and art into that icon of the American character. Rhodes Biography of Audubon highlights Audubon the woodsman (every bit Daniel Boone¿s counterpart) and the artist/naturalist who created ¿The Birds of America¿ drawings and study. Rhodes says of this accomplishment: ¿When he set out to create a monumental work of art with his own heart and mind and hands, he succeeded ¿ A staggering achievement, as if one man had single-handedly financed and built an Egyptian pyramid.¿ Rhodes points out the cost to Audubon to produce ¿The Birds of America¿ was $115,640 (in today¿s dollars about $2,141,000). What sets Rhodes study apart is his wonderful way of taking the reader on Audubon¿s life¿s journey and the journey of his young adoptive country, the United States. Rhodes titles his book ¿The making of an American¿ but this could easily have been the making of America. For Audubon traveled and experienced everything from failed business, a major depression, the nations largest earthquake, a major cholera epidemic, the large scale decimation of the carrier pigeons, forests, buffalo, and American Indians. He also met Presidents, the Queen while maintaining a family and marriage under incredibly difficult conditions. The heart of the biography is Audubon¿s relationship with his wife, Lucy and his two boys. Husband and wife were separated for many years as Audubon traveled to new business ventures, did his field studies on the side of making a living, and traveled back and forth across the Atlantic (I think I counted was at least 10 times in his lifetime). Yet Audubon and Lucy wrote letters and Audubon¿s writing is so modern and readable that they breathe life into the love affair of his life and Rhodes biography of the man. Also, let me congratulate the publisher Knopf, who have published a quality book which is getting rarer these days. The book is printed on excellent paper, with remarkably clear drawings inserted into the text, and several color plates of Audubon¿s drawings. My only complait is that they left of the Plate numbers of these drawings which would have made it easy to compare them when they are mentioned in the text. A small and minor isssue in a book I highly recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the fascinating story of John James Audubon and his struggle to paint and publish The Birds of America. Rhodes never loses sight of the man behind the art. He also pays tribute to Lucy Audubon, who sacrificed as much as her husband so the project could be completed.The book also portrays a growing nation and makes us aware nature was being despoiled even in the early 1800s. A must read for bird watchers, historians, artists, and conservationists
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heard the author speak a few months ago about Audubon. If you are interested in history, natural history, art, or birds, this book holds something for you. Audubon was an ambitious, talented man. The writer provides a view of our relationship to nature, the wildlife and distribution of birds and other animals that brings both saddens me and amazes me. Learning about the population of the US (58% of the population was under 20 years old), the history (the earthquakes of 1811) the birds (passenger pigeons numbered in the billions), make it easy to recommend this book.