The Beauty of Birds
Location: Kohl Gallery
CHESTERTOWN, MD–The Kohl Gallery at Washington College will soon exhibit an exquisite collection of rare volumes and prints with illustrations by some of the finest artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. “In Pursuit of Beauty: John J. Audubon and the Golden Age of Bird Illustration” opens Tuesday, October 9, with a reception in the gallery from 5 to 7 p.m., and continues through Friday, November 30.
The 20 books and 19 prints in the exhibit, on loan from private collections, showcase works by Audubon and other great but lesser-known naturalists—William Beebe, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Daniel Giraud Elliot, John Gould, and Alexander Wilson. Highlights include an original Audubon watercolor of a pheasant that has rarely, if ever, been displayed, and a 17th-century book with a decree by King James granting his subjects the right to hunt birds on Sundays.
According to exhibit curator Alex Castro, who is Architect, Exhibition and Book Designer in Residence at the College, the gallery will be filled with the sound of bird songs and calls. It also will feature video and photographs taken during the bird-banding project underway nearby at the Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory, part of the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College.
The video will add to what Castro calls “this bird spirit” that will embrace gallery visitors. “To see birds being released, taking wing—it’s the most wonderful thing,” he says. “And at the center of it all, these beautiful still images of birds from the past.”
Robert McCracken Peck, Curator of Art and Senior Fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, has been consulting with Castro on the exhibit. A renowned author, naturalist and historian, Peck says the upcoming Kohl exhibit is remarkable for the quality of prints and illustrations being shown. “This exhibition includes representative examples of some of the most beautiful, popular, and/or influential books about birds to be published in Great Britain and the United States over the last two hundred years,” he writes in an introduction to the exhibition.
“Whether the artists have household names, like America’s Audubon or Britain’s Gould, or are less well-known figures, the quality of their work is consistently high,” he adds. “Many of these works of art were created as illustrations to accompany scientific texts, but the artists went beyond mere technical expertise to capture the birds and their environments in extraordinary ways.”
Located on the ground floor of the Gibson Center for the Arts on the Washington College campus, 300 Washington Avenue, the Kohl Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. and closed Monday and Tuesday. For more information on the gallery, visit http://kohlgallery.washcoll.edu/.