Art: Bird Man

For half of his 65 years, John James Audubon did not appear to be destined for anything in particular. The bastard son of a French sea captain and a Santo Domingo Creole, he grew up in France when Jean Jacques Rousseau's back-to-nature notions were the rage. Sent to America to seek his fortune (as overseer of his father's estate near Philadelphia), young Audubon looked and acted like an absentminded candidate for the horsy set.

As he remembered it (in his journal): "I had no vices but was thoughtless and pensive, fond of shooting, fishing and riding ... as active and agile as...

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