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Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

Snowy Heron, or White Egret

from John James Audubon, The Birds of America; from Original Drawings (London: John James Audubon, 1827-1838), plate 242

Artist: John James Audubon (1785 - 1851)
Date: 1835
plate: 25 3/4 × 20 3/4 in. (65.4 × 52.7 cm)
sheet: 39 1/8 × 26 5/8 in. (99.4 × 67.6 cm)
Framed: 51 1/2 x 39 x 2 in. (130.8 x 99.1 x 5.1 cm)
Medium: Hand-colored engraving with aquatint and etching
Credit Line: Promised Gift to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
u.l.: No. 49.
l.l.: Drawn from Nature, by J.J. Audubon, F.R.S. F.L.S.
l.c. Snowy Heron, or White Egret / Ardea Candidissima, Gm. / Male adult Spring plumage. / Rice Plantation South Carolina.
l.r.: Engraved, Printed, & Coloured by R. Havell, London, 1835.
J. Whatman / Turkey Mill / 1835 [watermarked]

Not on View
Label TextAudubon found the white egret near Charleston, South Carolina, in March, 1832, while visiting naturalist John Bachman. Audubon reported that thousands of snowy herons had arrived and “were seen in the marshes and rice fields, all in full plumage.” His assistant George Lehman added the background with a plantation house and hunter. Unlike other ornithologists at that time, Audubon depicted the birds surrounded by their natural habitats in lively, dynamic compositions. His Birds of America (1827-1839) was an enormous undertaking that took twelve years to complete. Each of the 200 sets issued contained 435 plates depicting 489 life-size bird species, which were painstakingly engraved on large copper plates based on Audubon’s watercolor studies. The images were then printed on double elephant folio-sized sheets. Audubon’s goal was to study and publish all the bird species of America. He traveled the nation for about seven years, killed and collected birds, then propped them into natural positions with wires and rendered them in detailed watercolor paintings.