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Beyond Audubon: Bird Images through the Centuries

Afternoon Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, April 10, 2024 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0350
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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The Red Wing'd Starling by Mark Catesby, 1727–1731 (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Please Note: This program has a rescheduled date (original Thursday, April 4, 2024).

Nearly three centuries before the publication of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, Ulisse Aldrovandi in Italy and Conrad Gessner in Switzerland were commissioning detailed images of birds for their groundbreaking animal encyclopedias.

The earliest printed images were created using woodcuts, and these were followed by engraved and etched copper plates, which could reproduce finer details. Lithography, used by artist-ornithologist John James Audubon, was not in wide use until the 19th century. Before the advent of color printing, colored editions were painted by hand.

From the 16th century to the present, birds have been represented in a variety of ways. The earliest printed images isolated the birds on the page, but over time, they were shown with plants in their habitat and sometimes with nests and eggs. 

Kay Etheridge, professor emerita of biology at Gettysburg College, discusses natural history images that combine art and science in ways that have furthered our knowledge of birds.

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