Born Jean Rabin in France, John James Audubon made a name for himself in the New World almost in spite of himself. A failure at business, a footloose and difficult man, he perpetually fought off poverty to establish himself as a painter of America's fabulously varied wildlife. (To support himself while gathering the materials for his famous Birds of America
, he painted portraits of New Orleans society ladies.) In this thoroughly researched and well-written biography, Shirley Streshinsky supplies little-known details about Audubon's early years and later tribulations, which were rewarded late in his life by widespread fame and the recognition of his singular contributions to early American science.
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From Publishers Weekly
To escape conscription into the French Army, John James Audubon (1785-1851) fled to Philadelphia in 1803. There he married Lucy Bakewell, daughter of a large, prosperous Quaker family. As they moved West to seek their fortune, Audubon was entranced by the wilderness; in 1820 he started to implement his plan of depicting every indigenous bird on canvas. Streshinsky ( The Shores of Paradise ) has written a scintillating biography, a richly detailed story of romance, separation and struggle. After a succession of business failures, the Audubons drifted to New Orleans and Natchez, Miss., where he earned money drawing portraits and Lucy taught school to plantation families. In 1826 Audubon, carrying letters of introduction, took his portfolio abroad and established himself in England and on the Continent as a brilliant portrayer of birds. In her solid and satisfying biography, Streshinsky gives a lively account of that period. Photos.
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