John James Audubon: The Making of an American
Richard Rhodes’ new biography begins with the artist’s emigration at eighteen from Napoleon’s France in 1803 to a fledgling America barely older than himself. Armed with innocent fearlessness and an inborn talent for drawing, Audubon pursues his passion to draw every species of bird which “moved through the human world at will.” Danger and near-starvation compelled him to devise clever methods of mounting his still-life models—which often doubled as his daily sustenance! With pioneer optimism matching that of his new country, he survives the perilous wilderness, befriending Indians and businessmen to become a true, contributing American. Rhodes’ work paints a vivid picture of Audubon’s tribulations but illustrates his indomitable devotion to recording his precious birds even as he longed for his intrepid wife, Lucy. This book is not only biography; it is history with color reproductions and delicate etchings throughout: a most satisfying reading experience.