Wild and Beautiful Creatures: The Life and Work of J.J. Audubon, an exhibit organized by Chris Robinson of the Sharon Historical Society and Museum, collected works by J.J. Audubon from a variety of sources, including The Hotchkiss School Special Collections. Running at two venues simultaneously Sept. - Dec. 2019, Wild and Beautiful Creatures was installed at the Tremaine Art Gallery at The Hotchkiss School, while The Life and Work of J.J. Audubon was presented at The Sharon Historical Society and Museum. The Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO) recently awarded the Sharon Historical Society a 2021 Award of Merit for the exhibit. A virtual awards ceremony was held April 20.
The Tremaine display included around thirty of Audubon’s illustrations of birds and mammals for his two monumental publications, The Birds of America (1826-38) and The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1845-54). Hotchkiss Special Collections contributed eleven prints to the exhibit, nine of which were gifts to the School from former headmaster George Van Santvoord (1926-1955), including Great American Cock (Wild Turkey), Great American Hen and Young (Wild Turkey), White-Headed Eagle (Bald Eagle), Orchard Oriole, Wood Wren (House Wren), Barn Swallow, from The Birds of America, and American Bison or Buffalo, American Badger, Common American Wild Cat (Bobcat) from The Viviparous Quadrupeds of America. The Tremaine Art Gallery’s installation was designed by director Terri Moore and Chris Robinson. Mr. Robinson researched and sourced items in the exhibit for both venues over a four year period and wrote the informational text accompanying each one. A gallery talk was delivered by Dr. Robert McCracken Peck, Curator of Art and Artifacts and Senior Fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University at the exhibit’s opening reception on Sept. 14 at the Tremaine Art Gallery.
“Hotchkiss Special Collections was privileged to participate in this exhibit. Although we often lend items from our collections, it was a particular pleasure to collaborate with our colleagues from the Sharon Historical Society, and proved a wonderful experience for our students,” Joan Baldwin, curator of Hotchkiss Special Collections said.
Terri Moore, director of the Tremaine Art Gallery, added, “The opportunity to work with Christopher and Joan brought together fine art, historical narrative, community relationship, education, and student experience. The culminating shows, talks, and events created a place of conversation through visual beauty and the voices of student expression. The collective result was a fresh view of J.J. Audubon, his legacy, and enduring artistic influence."
The CLHO award committee was particularly impressed with the collaborative aspects of the project, as well as its school programs. Hotchkiss’s studio art program utilized the exhibit for teaching purposes, creating assignments centered around Audubon’s prints and other objects in the exhibit. A selection of student work can be viewed below.