| In the Footsteps of Audubon – An artist’s uniquely personal journey across Audubon’s America | By Denis Clavreul | Princeton University Press | 2022 | Hardback | 256 Pages & 272 Colour Illustrations| ISBN: 9780691237688 | $39.95/£30.00p |
The Publisher’s View:
In the nineteenth century, ornithologist and painter John James Audubon set out to create a complete pictorial record of North American birdlife, traveling from Louisiana and the Florida Keys to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the cliffs of the Yellowstone River. The resulting work, The Birds of America, stands as a monumental achievement in American art. Over a period of sixteen years, recording his own journey in journals and hundreds of original paintings, renowned French watercolorist Denis Clavreul followed in the legendary naturalist’s footsteps.
In the Footsteps of Audubon brings together some 250 of Clavreul’s stunning watercolors along with illuminating selections from Audubon’s journals and several of his paintings. With pencil and brush in hand, Clavreul turns his naturalist’s eye and painterly skill to the landscapes that Audubon encountered on his travels, and to the animals and plants that Audubon depicted in his art. A passionate ornithologist, Clavreul sketches birds in the wild with rare dexterity, bringing them vividly to life on the page. He documents his encounters along the way with people who live with nature, many of whom are passionately engaged in preserving it, drawing on his insights as both a biologist and an artist to connect the past, present, and future.
A spellbinding, richly evocative journey, In the Footsteps of Audubon is an invitation to see the natural world as Audubon saw it—and to see with new eyes what it has become today.
The Author: Denis Clavreul is a watercolorist, wildlife artist, and biologist whose acclaimed works have been exhibited around the world. He is the author and illustrator of many books, including Dreaming of Africa.
I’ve little to add to the publishers sketch. One artist emulating another’s experience, albeit in a very different world. The one often in the truly wild and places unknown to Europeans, the other experiencing a much-changed world where the threats to wildlife are legion, but still able to see much of the range his predecessor saw.
Audubon set out to show the world species as they truly are, and his modern-day acolyte depicting more impressionist portraits. Interestingly, Audubon has been criticised for posing his birds in artificial ways to show unique features and depicting unnatural behaviour… but more recently often vindicated when modern ornithologists discover similar phenomena.
Oddly, for me, the most interesting paintings are small sketches of urban scenes as they tend to be have more realism. I know most people will delight in this style redolent of Lars Jonsson, and I might concur with landscapes that evoke emotional memory, but I have a blind spot when it comes to bird portraiture, I want detail and realism rather than emotion and impression.
This is a sumptuous book, packed full of art and history with a narrative that carries one along like a Mississippi Steamboat.