Audubon's pastels

John James Audubon (1785-1851), Red-Shouldered Falcon (Red-Shouldered Hawk), 1809. Pastel and pencil. Graphic Arts GC154. Gift of Edwin N. Benson, Jr., Class of 1899 and Mrs. Benson in memory of their son, Peter Benson, Class of 1938.

This pastel represents one of Audubon’s early attempts at drawing the various species of the birds of America. He began by using pastels, moved to watercolors, and the final published albums contain hand-colored aquatints. A later watercolor version (in the New York Historical Society) was used for the engraving by Robert Havell that became plate 56 of the Birds of America. The descriptive text for this plate reads: “Red-shouldered Hawk, Falco Lineatus, Gmel., Male, 1. Female, 2.; issued in 1829” as listed in Ornithological Biography, I, 296-99.

Inscribed “Falls of the Ohio, 29th November, 1809,” Princeton’s drawing was eliminated from the final selection by 1824, the year when Audubon sold it and others to his newly discovered friend Edward Harris (1799-1863). Harris not only paid Audubon $30 for the drawings but gave the artist an extra $100, saying “such men ought not to want for money.”

For an extended essay about this pastel, see The Princeton University Library Chronicle 15, no. 4 (Summer 1954): 169-78.