Museum of Natural History is where the Wild Things are

Staff Report

Local art lovers have an opportunity to get wild at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for the next few months.

More than 30 rare and beautifully hand-colored lithographs of North American mammals by famous artist and naturalist John James Audubon are on display at the museum’s John and Peggy Maximus Gallery. The special “Wild Things” exhibit will be open until Memorial Day.

More than 30 rare and beautifully hand-colored lithographs of North American mammals by famous artist and naturalist John James Audubon are on display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Photo contributed

“We hope all who visit the exhibit come away with an appreciation for the artistry of this great naturalist,” said Maximus Gallery Curator Linda Miller. “These antique prints give us a glimpse into history, help us to understand how the sciences developed, and blend art and science in a captivating and beautiful way.”

While John James Audubon received widespread acclaim for his collection on the “Birds of America,” he also produced outstanding work on North American mammals, in a time during the 19th century when information was scarce and much of western America was still poorly known.

Mammals had not been well documented or illustrated in one publication until Audubon and his co-author, the Rev. John Bachman, published the “Imperial Folio of Quadrupeds.”

Audubon tried to capture the life and movement of his subjects, using a combination of pencil, chalk, crayon and watercolor. He then hired a printer in Philadelphia to transfer the images from the preparatory watercolors to lithographic stones for printing. Published over three years, from 1845-1848, the 150 plates filled three volumes.

Admission to the gallery is free with paid admission to the museum. The gallery is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

John James Audubon’s 19th-century work on North American mammals is on display through May 2018.
Photo contributed

Audubon’s prints on display belong to the museum’s extensive collection of more than 3,500 engravings and lithographs, which represent a sampling of European and American natural history illustrations from the 17th to 19th centuries. They were made during an era in which much of the world’s flora and fauna were being described for the first time as European voyages of exploration discovered new lands.

Engravings and lithographs of birds, plants, fruits and insects are represented in the museum’s print collection. Subjects include 19th century lithographs of birds and mammals by Audubon, hummingbirds by John Gould, reptile and amphibian engravings from colonial America by Mark Catesby, and 17th century German botanicals by Basil Besler.

For more information, call 805-682-4711 or visit www.sbnature.org.

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