Lucy Audubon “A Letter from John”

A Tribute to an Extraordinary Woman

Lucy Bakewell Audubon (1787-1874) was the wife of John James Audubon the famous ornithologist, naturalist and artist whose great life’s work and legacy was the creation of the historic color plate book – The Birds of America.

Lucy and John James had a love story that endured great hardships. It may be that, without Lucy’s help and support, John James’ might never have completed his great work.  I think she was justified to refer to it as “Our Great Book.”

Born to an affluent family Lucy grew up in comfortable surroundings but her grace, dignity, intelligence and inner strength would be tested many times throughout her marriage.  She adapted to life on the primitive, rowdy American frontier, faced grim poverty, the death of a child and John’s James’ long absences while he pursued his work.

There are no images of Lucy in her youth, only one brief written description.  Consequently, this painting depicts the essence of Lucy rather than an exact likeness. I chose to depict her during her courtship to John James when he traveled to France to see his father.  She holds one of his many letters.  In the 18th century mail often took weeks to arrive.  When it did finally arrive there was often a backlog of letters that came all at once making the long separations from loved ones even more difficult to endure.

As she reads one of John’s letters she is surrounded by beautiful Carolina Parakeets, the only native parakeet to North America.  Although abundant during Lucy’s  time, they became extinct in 1918.

30 x 15 Oil