ture on the page what he sav/ in thenwild. At a time when many of hisncolleagues worked in museums, drawingnstuffed birds (against plain backdrops)nwhose poses were unnatural andnwhose plumage had been dulled byntaxidermy, Audubon worked in thenfield, making sketches on the spot afternlong hours of walking and hunting.nIncidentally, Edward Lear alsonsketched and drew from real life thenbirds he found in the menagerie atnKnowsley Hall, property of the Earl ofnDerby, for whom he worked for fournyears.nMy favorite portrait of Audubonnhangs in the Green Roomi of thenWhite House. It is a romantic portrait,ndepichng Audubon clad in a wolfskinncoat, painted in Edinburgh in 1826 bynthe noted Scottish artist John Syme.nViewing this portrait, Audubon commented,n”The eyes to me are morenthose of an enraged eagle than mine.”nBird imagery filled Audubon’s thinkingneven about himself.nUntil lately, critics tended to regardnAudubon’s paintings of birds as romanticnrather than scientific. This assessmentnhas changed. At The NewnYork Historical Society exhibition,nAudubon’s drawings were a remindernthat they were a departure from earliernornithological illustrations in that theynwere rich and vivid representations ofnthe birds’ characteristic behavior. As anresult, they contributed to the scientificnstudy of birds and the identificationnof new species. Roger Tory Peterson,nthe renowned ornithologist and authornof A Field Guide to the Birds East ofnthe Rockies (now in its fourth edition),nhas written that Audubon’s “eyes mustnhave been almost as sharp as those of anred-tailed hawk. Not merely 20/20 vision,nbut perhaps 20/5.”nSmall wonder that over the pastncentury and a half, Audubon’s paintingsnhave endured as works of art.nWhile depicting his subjects with accuracy,nAudubon combined his imagesnand colors with a keenly aestheticnsense of composition. True, Audubonndid receive some art instruction, butnhe was largely self-trained. Techniquesncan be taught, but not so creahvity. Innone way or another, Audubon maynindeed provide the best American examplenof how creativity in the visualnarts triumphs eventually, if pursuednlong enough and sincerely.nThe original watercolors displayednat the Society imparted a fresher andnmore immediate sense of Audubon’sndistinctive artistry than do the morenwidely known engravings executed bynthe English artist-engraver RobertnHavell Jr. and hand-colored by colorists.nWhile Audubon and his two sons,nVictor Guifford and John Woodhouse,n”Blue and Snow Goose.” Original watercolor for Havell plate 381. From the exhibitionn”Audubon’s Birds of North America: The Original Watercolors.” Collection of thenNew-York Historical Society.n461 CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnnnoversaw the actual processes of engravingnand hand-coloring for the monumentalnoriginal volume of The Birds ofnAmerica, the actual engravings do differnin detail, style, vitality, and sensitivitynfrom the paintings that inspirednthem. In the exhibition, these discrepanciesnwere brilliantly illustratednby placing some of Havell’s platesnside by side with the correspondingnwatercolors.nBesides the paintings, the exhibitionnincluded previously unpublishedndrawings, preliminary sketches for thenwatercolors, a number of personal lettersnto and from Audubon, severalnportraits of Audubon, and sections ofnthe original manuscript from Audubon’snOrnithological Biography, thenseven-volume narrative that accompaniednthe original double elephantnfolio. Also on display were the lap desknwhich Audubon used while sketchingnin the field, his personal portfolio innwhich he carried his sketches, othernmemorabilia, and the rare first volumesnof the double elephant folio.nBecause the American Museum ofnNatural History’s “John James Audubon:nScience Into Art” exhibition wasnplanned in cooperation with the organizersnof The New York HistoricalnSociety’s Audubon show, the two exhibitionsnproved mutually complementary.nThe American Museum displaynwas particularly rich innAudubon’s mammal paintings. Executednin oil or watercolor, many ofnthese works were painted as illustrationsnfor Viviparous Quadrupeds ofnNorth America. Among the paintingsnfrom this period included in the exhibitionnwere the American Porcupine,nSwift Fox, and a painting of rats andnmice inside a partially opened woodenncase.nOrdinarily, rodents are not amongnthe creatures we consider beautiful.nYet when viewing them, I acquirednleaden feet: consumed by the beauty ofnthe artistry, I stood immobilized innfront of Audubon’s work, gazing. Audubon’snpainting of rats and mice devouringnthe contents of a small crate ofneggs convinced me that any creature,neven a rodent, can be appealing whenndepicted by a master. Equally compellingnwere the works of several collaboratorsnof Audubon: Joseph Mason,nGeorge Lehman, Maria Martin, andnAudubon’s sons, John and Victor. Inn