Hand coloured aquatint engraving on paper of Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis. Original common and scientific names used by artist were Red-tailed Hawk, Falco borealis. Plate from "The Birds of America" by John James Audubon.
John James Audubon (1785-1851) was a genius with a flair for self-promotion and a plan to paint, print and publish life-sized illustrations of all the bird species of North America.
Garbed in the cape of an American woodsman, Audubon sailed to Liverpool to find sponsors and oversee the production of his ambitious project. "The birds of America", featuring 435 hand-coloured etchings on oversized 'double elephant' parchment, is the most extravagant and inspiring bird book ever produced.
Audubon worked at a time when America's natural history was becoming increasingly entwined with national identity and myth-making. His work combined art, science and national pride, all presented in a gripping narrative. This life-size composition of hawks battling in mid-air cleverly depicts two views of the subject while celebrating the drama and beauty of the American wilderness.