Monday, January 22, 2007

Audubon Brushes to be Displayed

The John James Audubon Museum in Henderson, KY will soon have a new and important attraction: some rare paintbrushes used (and probably also handmade) by the master artist himself. The Evansville Courier & Press notes that the brushes were purchased by the museum from Christie's last fall, along with a handwritten Audubon manuscript (for "a little more than $20,000").

"They're six little tufts of hair that would fit easily in the palm of your hand. The largest is about the size of the end of your little finger and the smallest could be used to apply a woman's eyeliner. The green cloth cover of the flat folding case that holds them shows the wear of many openings and closings. ... Upon close study, one can see they're bound together with windings of colored threads, in much the same manner a person tying a fly for fishing would bind feathers and hair to create a fishing lure. And then they were forced or pulled some way through the small ends of shafts of feathers from large birds. ... A handle or stick would have been inserted into the larger, open end of the quill to allow a person to hold them for painting."

The brushes are believed to have been passed down through the Audubon family until the 1920s, when they were purchased by collector Grace Phillips Johnson. Upon her death in 1977 many of Johnson's Audubon items were sold to an unidentified purchaser, who consigned at least some of materials to Christie's late last fall.

Audubon's brushes and the accompanying manuscript (covering one of Audubon's trips from Henderson to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri in 1811-2) will be unveiled at the annual meeting of the Friends of Audubon on January 29, after which they will be put on regular display.