New VAC exhibit: Nests, Eggs, Heartbreak & BeautyBy Canton Citizen
A rare 19th-century book with stunning illustrations and a dramatic history was donated to Mass Audubon in June, and now an exhibition has been organized around it. Nests, Eggs, Heartbreak & Beauty will open on Sunday, September 30, at the Mass Audubon Visual Arts Center in Canton.
The exhibition opening will be celebrated by a reception with light refreshments from 1-5 p.m. Joy M. Kiser, whose research uncovered the story behind this remarkable volume, will be present, signing copies of her new book on the subject, America’s Other Audubon.
The historic volume bears a dry, unwieldy title, Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio. In fact, it is a compelling blend of ornithological observation and artistry, and its creation was a triumph of love through adversity.
In 1876, 29-year-old amateur artist and naturalist Genevieve Jones saw Audubon’s Birds of America at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and conceived the idea for a companion publication — of similarly high quality — to depict the nests and eggs of American birds. Her father, who had forbidden her to marry the man she loved, financed the project to provide her a distraction from heartbreak.
Jones’ brother Howard collected the nests and wrote the text, and she learned to draw on lithographic stones to create the printed images, which were later colored by hand. After completing only five drawings, Jones died of typhoid fever, and her grieving family determined to finish the book, with her mother taking the role of artist.
Only 90 copies of the book were printed, and fewer than 25 are known to exist today. Mass Audubon’s copy, which belonged to Howard Jones, is considered the most significant because its color plates served as the patterns for other copies, and it includes a unique gilt title page and important manuscript material.
In 1878, Harvard ornithologist William Brewster, who would later be Mass Audubon’s first president, described one of Jones’ drawings as “in its kind a perfect masterpiece.”
The exhibition includes loans from the Ohio Historical Society, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the New Bedford Free Public Library, the Florence Griswold Museum, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, as well as from the Arader Galleries of New York and two private collections.
The exhibition will be on view through January 13, 2013.
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