The Letter from Mickle Swamp: John James Audubon, South Jersey, and Birds of America Plate 81: Fish Hawk or Osprey
Despite the fact that a borough in Camden County bears his name, John James Audubon is rarely associated with New Jersey. The existing art history scholarship, biographies, auction catalogs, and museum exhibitions about the celebrated nineteenth-century artist/naturalist either skim over or completely overlook his time in the Garden State. However, Audubon made multiple trips to the southern part of the state to observe birds. He even lived and worked in New Jersey in the spring and summer of 1829, marveling at the biodiversity of South Jersey and producing a number of bird portraits that would later be published in his magnum opus, Birds of America. A handwritten letter in the archives of the American Philosophical Society brings to light some specific details about Audubon’s time in New Jersey, as well as clues to the true origin story of one of his most admired and sought-after works: Plate 81: Fish Hawk or Osprey.
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