Did you know that John James Audubon was a failed businessman turned artist and naturalist?
Did you know that he created 435 paintings of North American birds in his lifetime?
Did you know that Audubon often killed those birds and used wires to “pose” them in order to record all the details of their bodies?
These are all things we learned during our study of John James Audubon. Born in Haiti, the son of a merchant sea captain, his family returned to France when he was a small boy. To avoid being drafted into Napoleon’s army, his father sent him to oversee property he had purchased in the “New World” (present-day Pennsylvania) when he was only 18 years old. Audubon had little interest in his father’s property except for the birds that made their homes there.
Audubon married, had children, and traveled all over North America drawing and painting the birds he encountered. He was determined to paint all of the species of the continent. From 1827-1838, he published his most famous works, Birds of America, as a series of books sold similarly to magazine subscriptions.
I’m constantly amazed at how little time and effort it takes to expose my children to wonderful works of art. And for some reason, their interest still surprises me a little bit too. But it’s also encouraging to me, as their mom and teacher, to continue to gather good resources to share with them.
Here is our simple collection of resources for learning about John James Audubon.
Both of these capture the story of Audubon’s life well. The second adds more scientific information about birds and their habitats.
There are many good videos on You Tube to enhance your studies. We found these two particularly interesting:
- John James Audubon: The Birds of America (1985) starts off slow, but gets more interesting after the first few minutes. This video tells the story of Audubon’s life in less than 30 minutes.
- John James Audubon: Drawn from Nature takes only 2.5 minutes to tell an intriguing story of the plates used for printing Birds of America. Many of the paintings are also shared.
I’ve been wanting to add Nature Study to our weekly routine, and this Artist Study provided the perfect opportunity. Each kid got a new journal and instruction to find something interesting outside to draw. They’ve mostly drawn landscapes so far.
We’ve found a great You Tube Channel–Art 4 Kids Hub. This guy and his kids teach very simple lessons on how to draw everything from birds to pokemon. We’ve all been enjoying the lessons and look forward to Fridays to tackle a new one.
One of my favorite things about homeschooling are all the “rabbit trails” that come up along the way. In addition to studying the life of John James Audubon, the following topics also came up.
- Geography: Haiti, France, North America, Pennsylvania
- Bird Study: drawing and the science of birds, creation of birds, bird habitats
- Audubon Bird Society
- Field Trips: I just found out the Audubon State Historic Site is less than two hours from our home. I hope to be able to take a trip there in the near future.