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Three Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis leucotis): Study for Plate 35 of "The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America"
Date: 1842
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Medium: Watercolor, black ink, pastel, graphite, gouache, and white lead pigment with selective glazing on ivory paper
Dimensions: Overall: 30 1/8 x 22 1/4 in. (76.5 x 56.5 cm)
Place made: North America, United States
Description: This drawing shows three squirrels on a tree trunk, one squirrel is completely finished in watercolor as is the tree trunk. The other two squirrels are roughly sketched in with only graphite outlines. For Havell Plate #35 for The Quadrupeds of America. Formerly S-8.
Credit Line: New-York Historical Society
Object Number: Z.3330
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Inscribed: Inscribed at upper left in brown ink: "No 7. / Plate 35."; at lower left below graphite border in graphite: "Sciurus migratorius.[Aud L--crossed out] Bach. -- Leucotis Spc. -- Var. / N.Y. Dec.r 29th --1842. -- / Migratory Squirrel"

Gallery Label:

After the success of The Birds of America, a folio of 435 hand-colored prints of over a thousand life-size American birds, in 1840 Audubon turned from feathers to fur and began his second opus, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (literally, four-footed animals who bear live offspring).

In the inscriptions on this watercolor, Audubon referred to this species as the “Migratory Squirrel.” He recounted witnessing the undaunted creatures cross great distances and obstacles during his journeys west. The naturalist-artist and his men fed squirrels exhausted by their troublesome swim across the Hudson. The Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is common in eastern North America and known as the Cat Squirrel, Black Squirrel, Silvertail, Grayback, and Banner Tail.

The artist took great care in the execution of this illustration, which is one of three studies of squirrels produced by Audubon which are in the Society’s collection. In this sheet, whose composition appears as plate 35 in The Quadrupeds, Audubon rendered one squirrel and the tree branch on which the three arboreal rodents perch in mixed media but only outlined the other two squirrels. A second sheet, now in the Morgan Library and Museum, New York, features the other two squirrels of the composition finished in watercolor. This method of combining elements from various sheets for the final plate was typical for The Quadrupeds, particularly due to the collaborative nature of the enterprise. The effort increasingly fell to Audubon’s two sons, John Woodhouse and Victor Gifford Audubon, as their father’s health and eyesight began to fail. It was up to the lithographer, J[ohn] T. Bowen, to integrate two or three watercolors or oils into one finished hand-colored lithograph.

The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America was issued in thirty parts (fascicles) of five prints each. Regrettably, the final book covered only half the projected number of species. Among those excluded were the bats, represented by fifteen watercolors in the Society’s collection.

Provenance:

Possibly from Frederic De Peyster, New York City

Bibliography:

Olson, Roberta J.M. Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society. New York and London: New-York Historical Society and D Giles Ltd., 2008.

Olson, Roberta J.M. Audubon’s Aviary: The Original Watercolors for “The Birds of America”
New York: New-York Historical Society and Skira Rizzoli, 2012.

Exhibitions:

"Drawn By New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings," New-York Historical Society, September 18, 2008–January 07, 2009.