American Flamingo, John James Audubon (1838)

American Flamingo is one of the 435 hand-colored engravings that make up John James Audubon’s monumental Birds of America, issued in four volumes between 1826 and 1838. The massive publication includes life-size representations of nearly five hundred species of North American birds. Although Audubon was not the first to attempt such a comprehensive catalog, his work departed from conventional scientific illustration, which showed lifeless specimens against a blank background, by presenting the birds as they appeared in the wild. When his pictures were first published, some naturalists objected to Audubon’s use of dramatic action and pictorial design, but these are the qualities that set his work apart and make it not only an invaluable record of early American wildlife but an unmatched work of American art.