Purchase of Rare Audubon Painting Advances Woodson Art Museum’s Ambitions

John James Audubon, Pacific Loons, Oil, circa 1834.
WAUSAU, WISCONSIN: Pacific Loons, a rare oil painting by nineteenth-century artist/naturalist John James Audubon, has joined the collection of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

In announcing this exceptional acquisition, director Kathy Kelsey Foley called the addition a “significant milestone in the growth of the Woodson’s collection.”

She noted that the Audubon would be in excellent company given the Museum’s focus on the intersecting worlds of art and birds. “We knew that only a dozen or so Audubon oil paintings of birds are known to exist, yet we still ranked an Audubon at the top of our wish list. The loons are a curatorial dream come true.”

The Woodson Art Museum’s lofty goal to assemble a world-class collection that sets the standard for art of the avian world has its roots in the annually juried exhibition Birds in Art. This international migration brings the best contemporary bird interpretations to north-central Wisconsin.

The artists of Birds in Art, each in their own way, carry on the Audubon tradition of observing birds and the natural world. Foley remarks, “They share insights and nuances that might otherwise go unnoticed, and they also push the boundaries of the phrase ‘birds in art.’ Birds in Art and the Woodson Art Museum owe a debt of gratitude to John James Audubon.”

The W. Graham Arader III Galleries, Philadelphia, assisted in making the Audubon acquisition a reality, and the Nancy Woodson Spire Foundation provided funding. Arader Galleries also enabled the Woodson Art Museum to acquire the Black-throated Diver, a hand-colored engraving from Audubon’s ambitious The Birds of North America, which complements the loon painting.