Audubon Series Flourishes at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University presents John James Audubon’s “Precursors and Contemporaries”, the second in a two-part series. The exhibition is currently on view through February 13, 2010 in the Louise Hauss and David Brent Miller Audubon Gallery. This exhibition explores natural history publications and begins with some of the earliest publications about plants, specifically herbals, which were intended as references for apothecaries. This exhibition traces representations of flora and fauna from its earliest utilitarian modes in the 16th-century through the development of more artistically conceived representations.

The exhibition includes woodcut prints from ‘De Historian Stirpium’ (1542) by German Leonhart Fuchs, and from ‘The Herbal or General History of Plants’ (1597), by Englishman John Gerard. Notably, there are three prints of flora and insects by Maria Sibylla Merian, who produced the original watercolors for the prints in Suriname from 1699-1701. The exhibition culminates with two of John James Audubon’s English contemporaries, Prideaux John Selby who published Illustrations of British Ornithology, and Robert John Thornton whose elaborate and idiosyncratic The Temple of Flora (1801) was meant to be an homage to the renowned Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus.

Open since 2003, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University is Alabama’s only university art museum. Serving as the gateway into Auburn University, the museum has a wide-ranging permanent collection, which includes more than 100 Audubon prints, Tibetan bronzes dating from as early as the 15th-century and works by important American modern artists, such as Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe and Lyonel Feininger. The museum rotunda features a three-tiered, hand-blown glass chandelier created especially for the space by internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. The museum experience continues onto the grounds with fifteen acres of gardens, walking paths and water features complete with outdoor sculpture, including Spinoff, created by Auburn alumna Jean Woodham.

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