- Fay-Cooper Cole Gallery
John James Audubon’s lifelong work, The Birds of America, is considered a masterpiece of early American art. His over 400 vibrant, life-size images of birds depicted in natural settings were a major departure from the stiff images found in contemporary natural-history illustration. His aspiration to see his watercolors published as a print edition was ambitious; no other artist or naturalist at this time had attempted to reproduce illustrations on such a large scale, nor with such exacting detail.
The two major 19th-century print editions of The Birds of America are the Havell edition and the Bien edition. Both editions, represented in the permanent collection of the Illinois State Museum, are faithful to Audubon’s original watercolors and are examples of the best of 19th-century printing history.