While others may flock to the mall the day after Thanksgiving, the Kohl Gallery at Washington College invites area residents to migrate instead to a place of calm and grace: its special exhibition In Pursuit of Beauty: John J. Audubon and the Golden Age of Bird Illustration. The Gallery will be open Wednesday, Nov. 21, and Friday through Sunday, Nov. 23 – 25, from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. The exhibition reopens for its final few days on Wednesday, Nov. 28, and comes to an end Friday, Nov. 30. Admission is free.
This exquisite collection of rare volumes and prints features illustrations by some of the finest artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The 20 books and 19 prints in the exhibit, on loan from private collections, showcase works by Audubon and other great but lesser-known naturalists—William Beebe, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Daniel Giraud Elliot, John Gould, and Alexander Wilson. Highlights include an original Audubon watercolor of a pheasant that has rarely, if ever, been displayed, and a 17th-century book with a decree by King James granting his subjects the right to hunt birds on Sundays.
“Many of these works of art were created as illustrations to accompany scientific texts, but the artists went beyond mere technical expertise to capture the birds and their environments in extraordinary ways,” says noted authority Robert McCracken Peck, Curator of Art and Senior Fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, who consulted on the exhibition. He adds that “In Pursuit of Beauty” includes art from some of the most beautiful, popular, and influential books about birds to be published in Great Britain and the United States over the last two centuries.
Exhibit curator Alex Castro, an architect and designer who teaches at the College, has created an intimate atmosphere that celebrates the very spirit of birds along with the beautiful artworks. In one corner of the gallery, a video showcases the bird-banding project underway nearby at the Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory, part of the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College.
Located on the ground floor of the Gibson Center for the Arts on the Washington College campus, 300 Washington Avenue, the Kohl Gallery is normally open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. and closed Monday and Tuesday. For more information on the gallery, including a short video about the current exhibition, visit https://www.washcoll.edu/campuslife/kohl-gallery/