Birth: April 26th Les cayes Saint Domingue (Haiti today). His mother, Jeanne Rabine, dies on November 20th. His father, Jean Audubon, a plantation owner, merchant and seaman, owns property on the island.
© 2018 White House Collection/ White House Historical Association
A French education, an American destiny
(Oil on canvas by John Syme, 1826, detail)
Washington D.C., White House Collection "
- Property of John James Audubon's father in Couëron (Loire-Atlantique).
The child officially called Jean Rabin is established in Nantes at Jean and Anne Audubon’s home. Anne, being born Moynet, is Jean Audubon’s lawful wife.
Jean Audubon sells part of his belongings in Saint Domingue and buys Mill Grove a property near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Jean Rabin is adopted by the Audubon couple and then christened Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon. A truant schoolboy, he prefers drawing and observing the nature in Nantes and Couëron.
Under the exhortations of his father, who would like him to become a seaman as family tradition requires, Jean-Jacques trains at the Arsenal in Rochefort (Charente-Maritime, France). He fails and goes back home to Nantes in 1800 or 1801.
New career plan for Jean-Jacques Audubon. He sets sail for the USA where he becomes co-manager of his father’s property in Mill Grove with Francis Dacosta. He draws the series of American hanging birds. He gets engaged with Lucy Bakewell in 1804.
Temporary homecoming in Nantes. In Couëron, he carries on studying natural sciences with Charles Marie Dessalines d’Orbigny and also draws the series of Birds of France, complying with the conventional scientific representation.
New American project: becoming a businessman with Ferdinand Rozier, the son of a rich merchant from Nantes. Goes back to Mill Grove, then starts his apprenticeship as a businessman in New-York with Benjamin Bakewell an international trader and Lucy’s uncle. Mill Grove is sold.
He opens a commercial counter in Louisville, Kentucky. Marries Lucy Bakewell in 1808. Birth of his first son Victor Gifford. Carries on drawing birds.
Meets Alexander Wilson then prospecting for his book American Ornithology. Opens a shop in Henderson, Kentucky, then travels to find a better place (1811/12).
Becomes an American citizen. Becomes John James Audubon. Birth of his second son, John Woodhouse.
Death of his daughter Lucy, born in 1815. Common diseases in Henderson carry off a second daughter, Rose in 1820. Lucy gets sick also.
The sawmill built with Thomas Bakewell in Henderson in 1816 leads Audubon to bankruptcy. He is sent to jail for debts. Earns a living as a portrait-painter in Louisville.
Works some months as a taxidermist at the Western Museum, Cincinnati. Gets a first recognition for the quality of his ornithological drawings.
Decides to devote himself entirely to his work as a painter of American birds. Goes down the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers. Survives in Louisiana until 1826 in a scant way.
Looks for a publisher and sponsors in Philadelphia, then the cultural capital of the USA. Meets Charles Lucien Bonaparte. His attempts fail. He fails in New-York too.
Sails to England. Finds an engraver and sponsors. The edition of “The Birds of America” will start in 1827 and end in 1838.
Stays in Paris, looking for sponsors. He is congratulated by Cuvier, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Redouté, Gérard, Masséna… but gathers few subscribers
Beginning of his edition “Ornithological Biography”. Several stays in Great Britain until 1839 to prepare the future developments of his work. The 5th volume is published in 1839.
Fundraising tour in the USA and new ornithological explorations: American Atlantic Coast, Florida, expedition in Labrador with his son John.
Back in the USA after a 28 months – long stay in Edinburg and London with Lucy. He is granted a second audience with Andrew Jackson, the president of the USA.The following year: expedition to the shores of the Mexican Gulf and to freshly independent Texas with his friend Edward Harris.
In the USA, publication of the first volume in reduced form of “American Birds” (the last one will appear in 1844). Settles at Minnie’s Land, New-York City, his estate near the Hudson River in 1842.
Expedition on the Missouri river, on Indian territory. Must give up reaching the Rocky Mountains. Gathers little information. In 1845 /46 publication of two volumes: The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America in collaboration with John Bachman for the scientific part. Audubon whose health is declining has to put the rest of his work in the hands of his sons and of Bachman.
January 27th: Audubon dies at Minnie’s Land, New-York at 65, having been weakened for several years. Lucy outlives him 23 years and encourages the edition of Audubon’s first biography. She dies at 86.