The story behind the book “Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio”

“One spring morning in the 1850s, Gennie found an intricate bird’s nest that neither her father nor Howard, her younger brother, could identify. An inquisitive mind, she set out to find a book that would solve the mystery, only to find that no one had ever written one to help people differentiate the nests and eggs of various birds. What followed was a remarkable story of art, science, and entrepreneurship, full of tragedy and triumph, as the Jones family embarked upon filling that void in natural history, told for the first time in America’s Other Audubon by former National Endowment for the Arts librarian Joy M. Kiser.”


“Analysis and intellectual rigor were essential, because an artist does not draw what she sees, she draws what she understands.”


2 thoughts on “The story behind the book “Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio”

  1. August 22, 2012

    Though I commend Ms. Kiser for bringing this wonderful and tragic story of Genevieve Jones and her family’s quest to fulfill her dream to create original lithographs of the nests and eggs of the birds of Ohio, I must inform you that for all intents and purposes, it seems Genevieve Jones was not the other Audubon.

    John James Audubon created watercolors. Watercolors reproduced result in reproductions, -not- original works of visual art such as engravings, etchings or lithographs.

    On website, it states: “Havell took {John James Audubon} watercolor studies, engraved and etched a reverse image of the compositions on polished copperplates, inked the plates, placed dampened paper upon them, and rolled them through the press about 200 times for each copperplate image. (433 watercolor studies resulted in 435 copperplate etchings, as two compositions were double.) These images were then colored in an assembly line fashion, each artist having his own color to apply. It is not known whether Audubon himself actually assisted in any of the actual engraving or coloring at all. But he certainly supervised the work. The finished result was about 200 prints for each of the 435 copperplate etchings.”

    So, in reality, John James Audubon hired the chromist Robert Havel to reproduce his work as engraved and/or etched reproductions not engravings or etchings.

    As for the so-called John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” watercolors, J.T. Bowen was a chromist who posthumously reproduced lithographically those watercolors resulting in chromist-made reproductions.

    Since the above chromist did not obviously create the watercolors in question but just copied them, no matter how well he may have captured the details, at best, he captured them as reproductions.

    The chromist J.T. Bowen may have been an accomplished artist but in this case he was -not- creating his own artwork ie., lithographs, he was copying someone else’s artwork, in this case John James Audubon’s watercolors, resulting in reproductions.

    Lithographs are -original- works of visual art -created- by an artist, no different than any other original creative medium such as painting, sculpture and the like created by an artist.

    Unfortunately, the widespread misconceptions by the public, in majority because of misrepresentation -with or without intent- throughout the art industry, is that lithographs are copies of artwork.

    To the contrary, lithographs are -original- works of visual art “wholly executed by hand by the artist” and “excludes any mechanical and photomechanical processes.” [U.S. Customs Informed Compliance May 2006]

    In other words, Genevieve Jones and her family’s lithographs seem to be authentic works of visual art and John James Audubon’s so-called engravings, etchings and lithographs are at best nothing more than an -urban myth-.

    Caveat emptor!

    Gary Arseneau
    artist, creator of original lithographs & scholar
    Fernandina Beach, Florida


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