Birds of the Enlightenment

Predecessors and Rivals of J. J. Audubon

March 17 through June 10, 2012

On view in the Weil Gallery


On voyages of discovery from the 17th to the 19th centuries explorers sought out new species of animals and collected specimens or drawings that would be brought home to eager colleagues ready to carefully delineate new species, make engravings or lithographs, and publish them for presentation to the public all across Europe and America. These are the early years of scientific inquiry, best known as The Enlightenment. Dozens of publications organizing and describing the natural world appeared from the middle of the 16th century to the end of the 18th.

This exhibition from the personal collection of Professor Thomas Puryear of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, included original bird illustrations from some 75 different publications that involved more than twice that many artists, editors, engravers, writers, printers, and illustrators who gave direction to this endeavor of cataloging the natural world.

Above: Photograph of the 2012 installation of the exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.


Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama.


Support for this exhibition was provided in part by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

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