Audubon on Louisiana: Selected Writings of John James Audubon
Although we remember John James Audubon’s years in Louisiana primarily for the art he produced there, his writings reflect the profound impact the region made on him and his artistic vision, especially in his magnificent collection of paintings published as The Birds of America.
In Audubon on Louisiana, Ben Forkner compiles and explains in depth Audubon’s essential writings on the region. Beginning in 1810 as Audubon arrives in the upper Louisiana Territory, and continuing as he moves into southern Louisiana ten years later (and eventually brings his wife, Lucy, to join him), Audubon’s journals, essays, and letters reveal his struggles to fill his portfolio with new watercolors, his discoveries throughout the region, and the transformative effect the area had on both his art and his life.
Forkner provides a detailed introduction to Audubon’s private journal of 1820–21, the Louisiana Journal, to guide readers through this compelling document. Until now, the difficulty of comprehending Audubon’s rough English has often kept readers from fully appreciating the Journal’s significance. The volume also contains a dozen essays that Audubon penned about his experiences in Louisiana; most of these “episodes” he published in his Ornithological Biography, a massive five-volume written work that complements the visual art of Birds of America. Letters describing Audubon’s last voyage to Louisiana in 1837 followed by nine of his Louisiana bird biographies round out the collection.
These original texts, augmented with Forkner’s commentary, form a magisterial work that illuminates the importance of Louisiana to Audubon’s life and art. Audubon on Louisiana deepens appreciation of one of the most significant artists—and nature writers—of the nineteenth century.