Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon was born on April 16th, 1785 in Haiti. The English
translation of his name is John James Audubon. Audubon spent his childhood in France,
and this is when he became interested in drawing birds. His childhood was rather
uneventful, but at the age of eighteen, Audubon was sent to the United States to enter
business. This was the time when Audubon began his study of the birds of North
America. However, it would be many years until Audubon would make his living off of
the bird paintings he would create.
In his first years in America, Audubon partnered with Fredrick Rozier, and together
they attempted two business operations, both of which failed. The first attempt was to
operate a mine. The second was to operate a general store. After failing twice, the
partnership between the two dissolved, and they went their separate ways in life. Shortly
after these failed attempts at business, Audubon partnered with his brother-in-law, but all
of their business attempts failed also. Perhaps Audubon then realized that he was not
meant for business. By now, Audubon took whatever jobs he could get just to make the
money necessary for living. In 1820, Audubon’s interest in drawing birds had grown
rapidly, and he had mastered the trade of the taxidermist, and was living off of his income
brought by his small taxidermy business.
In 1824, Audubon began to think about publishing his bird drawings, but it wasn’t until
1826 that Audubon traveled to Europe to search for a qualified engraver. Audubon
published several books of bird drawings, with informative text that accompanied the
pictures. The text was not written entirely by Audubon, but Audubon was helped by
William MacGillivray. Audubon spent the rest of his life living in New York City, and dividing
his time between Europe and the United States. Audubon would complete his drawings,
and then travel to Europe to publish them. After publishing them, he would return
to the US and create more drawings, then return to Europe to publish them. This cycle
continued for the rest of his life. Audubon died on January 27, 1851 in New York City.
In his lifetime Audubon had become the greatest painter and ornithologist of his time.
In fact, he still remains the greatest painter of North American birds that America has
ever seen. He had multiple honors bestowed upon him, also. A Kentucky state park was
named after him, and an ornithological organization was created and named after him,
also. The Audubon society is still a very popular organization today. Their website
includes numerous articles on birds, and they have also published numerous books on
North American birds that are extremely informative. It is clear that Audubon had
accomplished more in his lifetime than he had ever set out to do.