At our April meeting Lee Silliman will be presenting an illustrated lecture entitled “Audubon in the West.” Many admirers of John James Audubon (1785 – 1851), the masterful painter of North American birds, are not aware that he turned his attention in the last twelve years of his life toward the dynamic depiction of four-footed mammals in their natural habitat (an American first). An 1843 voyage up the Missouri River to Fort Union, Montana, gave Audubon the opportunity to obtain western specimens to augment his collection. In concert with another self-taught naturalist, The Reverend John Bachmann, Audubon and his sons produced the lavishly illustrated tome The Quadrupeds of North America.
Silliman’s lecture will first sketch Audubon’s early career and delve into the details of his expedition into the Upper Missouri River country. Next, the talk will illustrate the process of how Audubon fashioned preliminary paintings into exquisitely detailed and richly hand-tinted stone lithographs, which were eventually published to the acclaim of the general public and scientists. As a special treat, Lee will be bringing some of the framed original Audubon lithographs for us to view.
Silliman is a retired educator and museum employee living in Missoula. Since early childhood he has nurtured a strong interest in the art and history of the 19th century American West. He began the craft of photography in 1979, built his own darkroom and picture framing shop in 1983, and began using a Wisner 8 x 10 inch field view camera in 1989. Utilizing his own photographs, the historic photos from the museum collection he managed, as well as vintage engravings that he purchased, Silliman has assembled and circulated numerous exhibits that have been displayed in more than one hundred venues throughout Montana and ten other states since 1988. He holds BS and MS degrees from the University of Illinois.
Cedar Mathers-Winn, an MS candidate at UM and recipient of a 2017 Philip L. Wright Memorial Research Award, will also make a brief presentation at the April meeting on his study of how forest gaps disrupt communications among birds.