John J. Audubon

Naturalist / Artist

Born: 26 April 1785
Died: 27 January 1851
Birthplace: Les Cayes, Santo Domingo
Best known as: 19th century ornithologist and artist

Name at birth: Jean Rabin

John James Audubon was born in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo (present day Haiti) and raised in France, but moved to Pennsylvania as a young man to care for his father's land. He married Lucy Blakewell in 1808, and continued to sketch and paint birds in his spare time, while trying to make a go of it in business. By 1820 he had given up on business and turned to studying and painting birds as his life's work. The Birds of America, containing life-sized portraits of 1,065 individual birds, was published in four volumes between 1827 and 1838, and Audubon relentlessly promoted it. The self-taught artist and naturalist was initially scorned by ornithologists, but has since become legendary for his paintings, which for the first time depicted birds in natural habitats and poses. In 1886 a bird preservation organization took his name and eventually evolved into the National Audubon Society.

Extra credit: For the ten years Audubon lived in France, his name was Jean-Jacques Fougére Audubon.

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