Wednesday, June 18
7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition
When Joel Oppenheimer recognizes a bird, it’s not because he’s a birder, but rather because the renowned art dealer has been intimately acquainted with the quintessential avian paintings of John James Audubon for decades.
Now, Oppenheimer, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Audubon, has produced and written “The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition.” Oppenheimer has written text to complement the first complete reproduction of the Bien chromolithographs: 150 full-color illustrations in facsimile form of “The Birds of America,” which Audubon painted more than 150 years ago.
Oppenheimer, a Chicago-based art dealer and art conservator, will give a free talk about this seminal project at 7:30 p.m., June 18 at Brushwood Center, 21850 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, Illinois.
Through his seven years of research and working with publisher, W.W. Norton and Co., Oppenheimer discovered some intriguing information, not so much about John James Audubon himself, but about his wife, Lucy, and their son, John Woodhouse Audubon.
After Audubon’s death, his son commissioned Julius Bien in 1858 to produce a new edition of his father’s works with a revolutionary chromolithographic process that omitted the painstaking steps of hand coloring each piece as had been done previously.
The family still owned the original paintings and all the original copper plates.
“The family put everything into this,” Oppenheimer said. “Lucy Audubon mortgaged their estate to finance the project. When the Civil War came, however, the project could not be completed and the family suffered a devastating bankruptcy.” Audubon’s original watercolors were sold to the New-York Historical Society in 1863.
Only 150 plates were produced in the Bien collection. They are among the rarest and most sought-after Audubon prints. When Oppenheimer secured a complete folio of the Bien collection about eight years ago, he was inspired to produce the new book.
“There was something about the quality of this printing that captured my imagination,” he said. “In previous writings, the Bien edition had been cast aside and much maligned as being a poor quality reproduction. I bought this set and it was an exquisite example of chromolithography and Audubon’s work.”
Oppenheimer said his new book “is a very specific treatment of one particular edition of Audubon’s work that had never been examined in depth at a scholarly level. There’s a lot of new information in the book, a lot of discovery from original research.”
The June 18 event is presented through a partnership between Brushwood Center and Lake County Forest Preserves. A limited number of books will be available for purchase ($350) and signing. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Brushwood Center. To reserve your copy in advance, call 847.968.3308. Registration is required. To register, call 847.968.3321.
WHEN: 7:30pm, Wednesday, June 18
WHERE: Brushwood Center, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL
Registration required. To register, call 847.968.3321.