UW–Madison’s Emily Arthur, an associate professor in the School of Education’s Art Department, has been awarded an Eleanor M. Garvey Visiting Fellowship in Printing and Graphic Arts at Harvard University to carry out her research proposal that is titled, “Secrets of Havell: Making Prints for ‘The Birds of America.’ ”
The central objective of Arthur’s research is to discover historical materials and methods employed by the Robert Havell family of engravers in publishing John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America.” During her residency at Harvard, she will conduct etching and aquatint experiments based on the primary resources in the Harvard Libraries, while concurrently serving as a visiting artist within the printmaking department at Boston University.
Arthur’s research and artist residency is informed by the voluminous body of writing about Audubon and “The Birds of America,” her own experience as an artist and professor of printmaking at UW–Madison, and research already undertaken within the Department of Special Collections in the UW–Madison Libraries that was recently exhibited at the Chazen Museum of Art.
John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” has been analyzed by scholars of art history, ornithology, and history of science and mythologized within American frontier history alongside the evocative biography of Audubon himself. It has not been thoroughly considered, however, through the lens of its primary printmaker, Robert Havell Jr., who printed the publication in his London shop between 1827 and 1838.