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 John Woodhouse Audubon  (1812 - 1862)

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: portrait, western wildlife-genre painting, sketching

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Ad Code: 3
John Woodhouse Audubon
from Auction House Records.
Wild Ducks Rising
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A member of the Audubon family of botanical fame, John Woodhouse Audubon was a painter of portraits, wildlife, and westward migrants on the Overland Route.

He was born in Henderson, Kentucky, the younger son of ornithologist John James Audubon. As a youngster, he was his father's sketching pupil but was more preoccupied with sports than painting. However, he became committed to his father's pursuits, and he and his brother Victor began working together with their father, collecting specimens of birds and sketching them to be recorded in the subsequent book, "Birds of America".

In 1833, John went to Labrador with his father and a year later to Europe. Between 1834 and 1835, he worked in England as a portrait painter and also assisted in the publication there of "Birds of America". In 1837, he and his father received the use of a Navy cutter from President Andrew Jackson to explore bird life along the Texas coast, and they visited Houston and Galveston.

After 1839, his residence was basically New York City, but he traveled extensively in Europe, Texas, and the West. He returned to Texas for collections for his father's book, "Quadrupeds of North America," a project whose completion was largely overseen by the younger Audubon because of his father's poor health. In Texas, he had a discussion with Sam Houston about the safest way to find a cougar, and reportedly the painting he did after this conversation is regarded as one of his best. (Samuels 13)

In 1846, John returned to Europe, and in 1849, became the commissary for Webb's California Company and traveled by boat through Texas and Mexico into San Diego. During the trip, he was made commander of the company, and also did many sketches, but paper was so scarce he finally abandoned his paints and had to use his sketches for gun wadding.

In California, he spent seven months doing hundreds of sketches including gold mines, which he toured extensively. However, most of his watercolors were lost because a batch mailed to a friend in New York never appeared there, and another group went down with a friend who drowned at sea. However, 34 unfinished sketches are in the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. Audubon later finished illustration sketches for his own journal including animal and bird subjects from Arizona.

When he returned to New York City, he spent the next 12 years until his death at his home, finishing his father's book on "Quadrupeds of North America," by doing more than half of the illustrations. Both he and his brother Gifford worked to publish edition's of their father's work after the father's death in 1851.

Harold and Peggy Samuels, "Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
John and Deborah Powers, "Texas Painters, Sculptors, and Graphic Artists"

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Henderson, KY on Nov. 30, 1812, the son of John James Audubon. The younger Audubon came to California in 1849 and stayed seven months making sketches of the mining activities in the gold fields. Many of the sketches are lost except for 34 unfinished ones held in the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. After returning to NYC, he continued publishing his famous father's Birds of America until his death there on Feb. 18, 1862. In: NMAA.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Art of the Gold Rush; New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace); California Pictorial (Van Nostrand & Coulter); Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Artists of the American West (Samuels).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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John Audubon is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Western Painters

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