Letter to the Editor: Behold, the Birds – Review of Exhibit

Dear Editor, The exhibit, “In Pursuit of Beauty, John James Audubon and the Golden Age of Bird Illustrations” which opened on Oct. 9 at the Kohl Gallery was an outstanding exhibit very pertinent to Kent County and the Eastern Shore. The exhibit was captivating and imaginative as well as educational.

This exhibit is one you might expect to find in galleries in Washington, New York or Philadelphia. Alex Castro did a superb job of designing and installing the exhibit containing numerous original Audubon books and prints.

The Kohl Gallery provided an exquisite venue, especially for the size and contents of this enchanting exhibit. The Audubon prints and books provided fresh and descriptive material for the bird lover as well as the novice. The Kohl Gallery was also full of bird songs and calls which added a light and enjoyable sound effect to the panoply of bird prints and books displayed in magnificent cabinets around the gallery. The artist and naturalist John James Audubon (1785 -1851) was one of the premiere artist active in the 19th century, including Charles Lucien Bonaparte (son-in-law of Napoleon), John Gould, Daniel Girard Elliott, among others. Audubon who was born in Haiti, reportedly the illegitimate son of a French sea captain. Around the 1890s he was in Philadelphia and thrown into prison for bankruptcy. His real interest in birds began in the early 1820s; when he traveled through the American South collecting specimens and producing drawings. A more local connection to Audubon stems from the fact that he admired Charles Wilson Peale of Baltimore, who opened the first museum in America. Peale’s paintings, especially those dealing with natural science, influenced many American painters including John James Audubon. The Kohl Gallery exhibit, was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Foundation, and others including James H. Smith of Chestertown, Dr. Harry Sears, The Joseph H. McLain Program in Environmental Studies at Washington College and The Center for Environment and Society at Washington College. Let’s hope the Kohl Gallery produces and present more exhibits of this caliber well into the future.

Fletcher R. Hall
Washington College ‘63

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