Fireflies: July Master Artist: John James Audubon         

Jul 16, 2012

July Master Artist: John James Audubon

Can you think of anything more touching as a symbol of American and Christian freedom as the eagle and the lamb?  As the Fireflies monthly topic, this symbolic and beautiful painting above was painted by our master artist of the month, John James Audubon. This painting is less known than Audubon's other eagle drawings, like the one shown below, but holds many deep truths.
Interestingly, "The Eagle and The Lamb," above, is an oil painting completed by Audubon in 1828 when he was in London. It now is found on the walls of his old historic home in Mill Grove, Montgomery County, in the city of Audubon, Pennsylvania, and was one of four large oil paintings Audubon he painted between 1828 and 1829, supposedly created to help pay for the production of his book "Birds of America." 

FOR YOUR STUDENTS/CHILDREN:  The hand-colored lithograph, below, is Plate #14 from the Octavo Edition of "Birds of America" created by Audubon from 1840 to 1844. It is quite well known because it is in his "Birds of America" collection and is often shared in schools across America.  Mr. Audubon as a scientist/naturalist and artist, tells us stories through his pictures.

Symbols are used quite often in art.  We use symbols to convey truths, to draw attention to certain topics, and often to simplify a visual message. Not only is the eagle our country's symbol of freedom, in the painting below, Audubon tells a story about the life and habits of this great bird.

"The Bald Eagle" by our Artist and Naturalist Audubon, below, includes his field notes:

"The figure of this noble bird is well known throughout the civilized world, emblazoned as it is on our national standard, which waves in the breeze of every clime, bearing to distant lands the remembrance of a great people living in a state of peaceful freedom
May that peaceful freedom last forever!" 
(Quote taken from

Reflection Questions:
1.  What do you see in this drawing? (A bald eagle with a catfish.)
2.  What do you think eagles eat? (Fish and other small animals.)
3.  Why do you think Mr. Audubon drew this bald eagle with a fish in its talons and didn't just draw the bird by itself?  (Because in telling a visual story about the bird, he shows us that the eagle is a 'bird of prey' which means it hunts primarily while flying using its sharp eyesight and other senses to find its food.)
4.  Why do you think he is called a "bald" eagle?  (Because his head is white.)
5.  What else is white on the bald eagle?  (His tail feathers.)
6.  Where is the bird?  (On a rock.)

Audubon went through a lot of hard times in his lifetime; his life is a symbol as well of the spirit of young America, when the wilderness was seemingly endless, difficult, yet exciting. He was born in what is now the island of Haiti but grew up, actually, in Pennsylvania where he loved to watch birds and learn from nature on the farm where he lived.  When he grew up, he traveled, often with many difficulties along the way, documenting his book the "Birds of America" with his writings, drawings, and paintings. He was a hunter but he also wrote later on of the importance of wildlife conservation and taking care of the animals God has given us to look after. 

What can you and your students do to help raise awareness in order to preserve and protect the bald eagle? 

If you live in Orlando, you may wish to take your students to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey located at 1101 Audubon Way, Maitland, FL 32751, or if you are in the Pennsylvania area, drop by the home Audubon grew up in!  Also, check out the National Audubon Society at  

Let's help our little students start now to understand the importance of our freedom also means the responsibility of taking care of the animals & birds God has so graciously given us dominion over!

Written by Laura Bird Miller, artist/art instructor, Circle Christian School, Orlando, FL