keeping with the practices of contemporarynpainters, Audubon oftennallowed his colleagues to complete thenbackgrounds of his paintings. Theirnlandscapes and botanical specimensnenriched and enlarged Audubon’snoeuvre. (One must remember thatnFranz Synder painted some of the bestnanimals in the canvases of Peter PaulnRubens.) To better locate Audubon innhis milieu, the American Museum’snshow included handsome books illustratednby Mark Catesby, William Bartram,nAlexander Wilson, ThomasnNuttall, John Kirk Townsend, and TitiannPeale.nOne of the most impressive areas innthe American Museum—the AudubonnHall—is open only by specialnarrangement with its Ornithology Department.nIt was a rare delight thatnitems housed here, rarely viewed bynthe public, were included in thisnshow. Especially known for his lifelikenwatercolors of birds, Audubon devisedna method of wiring specimens in lifelikenpositions and mounting them on angridded board. The exhibition includednsuch a model compared with anfinished painhng of the same bird.nEqually intriguing was a display thatncontrasted the original Birds of Americanprints with copies painted by JosephnBartholomew Kidd, the artist employednby Audubon to duplicate portionsnof his work in oil.nTogether, these two shows enablednvisitors to reflect upon Audubon andnhis achievements. His life itself is fullnof contradictions. At 18, he emigratednto the United States, probably to avoidnconscription into Napoleon’s army.nAfter his marriage to Lucy Bakewell,nan English neighbor of Audubon’s innAmerica, he moved to Kentucky andnlater to Ohio, where a series of commercialnventures resulted in bankruptcy.nIt was at the age of 40 that Audubonnfirst conceived Birds of America,nsecured a publisher in London, andnbegan marketing his project to thenwidest possible audience. His emphasisnon behavior and habitat signaled anchanging approach to the naturalnworld. Animals were finally perceivednas living, breathing creatures with lifenhistories of their own, rather than asnthe isolated, one-dimensional creaturesnseen in most art before 1827.nAlthough eminent in his twilightnyears, Audubon died an impoverishedn”American White Pelican.nSotheby’s, New York.nman. He would have found it incrediblenthat 130 years after his death ansingle set of his engravings (soldnindividually) would auction forn$1,716,660, with the single engravingnThe Great Blue Heron bringingn$30,800. Audubon spent the last yearsnof his life on an estate overlooking thennnHavell engraving for Birds of America. Photo courtesynHudson River in upper Manhattan,nwhat is now Washington Heights. Henis buried at 155th Street and Broadway,nwhere a memorial, carved withnthe images of birds, marks his grave, ccnShehbaz Safrani is a writer andnpainter based in New York City.nDECEMBER 1985197n