Audobon print, small-headed flycatcher

Audobon print, small headed fly catcher

This is a print by John James Audobon who most of you guys have heard of. In the 1820s he made big prints and in the 1840s they used a camera lucida to transfer these big prints down onto little lithostones so they could make money printing a lot of them with lithography then hand coloring them. So this is one of those [small prints]; they are still fairly inexpensive…and the reason I brought this particular one is that it is the kind of image that I would have passed by without another thought when I was younger because I liked hip, expressive artwork, and this was old and conservative and looked like an old lady ought to have it so I didn’t care, but now I have developed an appreciation for these things and especially this one.

All of them are labeled what the species is; they are from a whole book of like 500 different birds; this one he [Audobon] called the small-headed flycatcher. And this is interesting because there is no such bird as the small-headed flycatcher. No one has ever seen one since the 1840s when Audobon made this print. And Audobon was a serious artist and he made hundreds of prints of very exacting detail of birds that really do exist; he wasn’t messing around, he must have actually seen this bird and drew it very faithfully. He does mention how rare they were, and this could have been the very last one that was breathing on the earth…

This belongs in the Museum of Extinction

Exhibited by Peter Olson

Transcript edited by Susan Golland

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