John James Audubon

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John James Audubon
American Flamingo artwork by John James Audubon

American Flamingo

Born: 04/26/1785
Location: Les Cayes, France
Died: NA
Age: 65
Movements Naturalist
Nationality American
Expertise Painter

Frenchman John James Audubon became known as the American Woodsman for his passion for studying and sketching the birds of North America. By the time he lost his sight in 1846, he was already a world-renowned painter, scientist, and ornithologist.

Personal life

John James Audubon was born to a French sea captain and plantation owner and his French mistress. Audubon was raised by his stepmother in France but was sent to the United States when he turned eighteen to avoid being drafted into Napoleon’s army. While he was living on the family farm near Philadelphia, he began his ornithological work and met his wife, Lucy Bakewell. The couple relocated to Kentucky. There, John James Audubon opened a dry goods store, but he continued to track and sketch birds as a hobby. When he lost his business to bankruptcy, he struck out on his own to track and sketch North American birds. The journey was a success, and Audubon became a renowned ornithologist, scientist, and painter.


During John James Audubon’s rugged existence in the American South, he compiled paintings and sketches of birds. He combined these works with embellished stories about life in the South. He traveled to England and was celebrated as “the American Woodsman.” Following this success, Audubon had Birds of America published. The volume included over 400 different birds known to be indigenous to the United States. Again, it was a great success with Europeans fascinated with America. He then collaborated with Scottish ornithologist William MacGillivray to create the Ornithological Biography. Audubon continued his travels throughout the United States and was in the process of compiling a book about mammals entitled The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America when his eyesight failed in 1846. The book was completed by his sons and his long-time friend, Reverend John Bachman. John James Audubon also enjoyed success as a scientist. He considered his membership in the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Linnaean Society, and the Royal Society of London to be some of his greatest successes.

Fun Facts

  • Audubon was the first to band birds to track their migration.
  • He had two sons as well as one daughter who died in infancy. His sons married two sisters.
  • Audubon discovered twenty-five new species of birds and twelve new subspecies.

Related Artists


Some Examples of John James Audubon’s Artwork

Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias), Plate Ccxi, From 'The Birds Of America' artwork by John James Audubon

Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias), Plate Ccxi, From ‘The Birds Of America’

Audubon: Pelican artwork by John James Audubon

Audubon: Pelican

Great Blue Heron artwork by John James Audubon

Great Blue Heron