John James Audubon (1785-1851, French-American)

John James Audubon cats fighting

John James Audubon circa 1845
Smithsonian Institute

John James Audubon was a French-American wildlife painter and ornithologist.  One of his greatest works was Birds of America wherein he identified 25 new species.  Born in Haiti, he was the illegitimate son of Lieutenant Jean Audubon, a French sea captain, and named Jean Rabin, after his mother. He later fled to the US to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic wars. When he was formally adopted by his father, he changed his name. Once he had immigrated to the US he worked on setting up a dry goods business.  At first fairly successful, he would later go into debt and become bankrupt and even be briefly imprisoned.  Early on John James had an almost obsessive love of birds and made drawing them his hobby.  Even so, he managed to capture two cats in art in a rather dramatic painting. Once his business failed, he was able to follow his true dream of being a wildlife artist. 




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Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

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