John James Audubon was born in Les Cayes, in what is now Haiti, on April 26, 1785. The illegitimate son of French plantation owner Captain Jean Audubon and his Creole servant Jeanne Rabin, he was given the name Jean Rabin at birth. However, when his mother died shortly after his birth, he and his sister were sent to Nantes, France, where they were raised by the captain’s wife, Anne. The couple legally adopted the children in 1794 and gave Jean a new name: Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon.
By 1824, Audubon had grown intent on finding a publisher for his work, but was unable to generate any serious interest in the United States. Two years later, he set sail for the United Kingdom, where he hoped to at least be able to find engravers skilled enough to properly reproduce his work. The decision immediately proved a good one. He exhibited his work in both Scotland and England to great acclaim, fascinating the public with his impressive drawing skills as well as some tall tales he relayed about life on the American frontier.
The success of his exhibitions would finally lead to the first publication of the book for which he is now best known: Birds of America. Featuring more than 400 plates of his drawings, the four-volume work was printed in London by Havell & Son in 1827 and serialized until 1838. Accompanying it was Ornithological Biography, which featured text about the lives and behaviors of his subjects as well as highlights about Audubon’s adventures. He followed these seminal works with 1839’s A Synopsis of the Birds of North America.
Throughout this period, Audubon traveled back and forth between the United States and Europe, overseeing the publication of his works and also selling them in popular serialized subscriptions to admirers who included King George IV and United States President Andrew Jackson. His fame and fortune firmly established, in 1841 Audubon moved his family to a large rural estate on the Hudson in upper Manhattan, where he began work on a more compact edition of Birds of America.
Father Gregory Gerrer, a monk of St. Gregory’s Abbey in Shawnee, Oklahoma, achieved an international reputation as an artist, curator, and collector of art. Born Robert Francis Xavier Gerrer on July 23, 1867, in France in the Alsatian village of Lautenbach, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 he immigrated with his family to the United States. They settled in Bedford, Iowa. As a youth he displayed a talent for art and music, taking various jobs as a musician. Upon learning of a land opening in Oklahoma Territory in 1891, he traveled to Guthrie. In December he visited the community of Benedictine monks at Sacred Heart Mission, located in the southern part of present Pottawatomie County. He remained there and entered the novitiate in January 1892, taking the name Gregory.
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After being ordained to the priesthood in 1900, Gerrer traveled to Rome to study art. During this time he developed a reputation for portraiture. In 1904 he painted a portrait of the recently elected Pope Pius X (canonized 1954). Gerrer entered the painting in the 1904 World’s Fair at St. Louis, and it won a bronze medal. The original of this signature work is exhibited in the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art on the campus of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.
Gerrer returned to the United States in 1904 and taught at Sacred Heart and at St. Gregory’s, after the Benedictine community moved to Shawnee. Beginning in 1917 he spent fifteen years as a faculty member and curator at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He then returned to St. Gregory’s Abbey and resumed his teaching duties. He also continued to paint, both for income and to barter for artistic works and anthropological objects. Throughout his career he collected the art and artifacts that became the nucleus for the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. He was cofounder and first president of the Association of Oklahoma Artists. In 1931 Gerrer was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He died on August 24, 1946.
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Clyde Singer was born in the small town of Malvern in 1908 and grew up in the rural hills of Ohio. Educated in the local public schools, he had an early interest in art and, after high school, attended the school at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. In 1933 he received a scholarship to the Arts Students’ League in New York City where his mentors were “American Scene” painters John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton. During his seven years in New York City, Singer developed a friendship with artist John Sloan, one of “The Eight” of the Ashcan School, a group of artists who painted gritty urban scenes and preceded the American Scene.
Primarily oils and watercolors, Singer’s early work focused on rural and small-town life in Ohio. Later in his career his art shifted to scenes of contemporary urban life. In 1940 Singer became the assistant director at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, and, except for military service during World War II, remained there until his death in 1999. Singer completed more than 3,000 paintings during his career and is best known for his American Scene paintings.
Singer’s paintings are part of the permanent collections of many museums throughout the United States, and his work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, the Corcoran Gallery, the Chicago Art Institute, the National Academy of Design, the Massillon Museum, the Canton Museum of Art, and the Butler Institute of American Art.
With 120 full-color reproductions of his paintings, as well as photographs of the artist at work and with his friends and family,Clyde Singer’s America places the artist in the context of his time and makes his work available to a new and appreciative audience.
David M. Band, a native of Portland, Maine, now lives in Texas. He has devoted the majority of his life to art as a painter, printmaker, educator and collector.
David is a member of Allied Artists of America, Inc., Audubon Artists, Inc., Watercolor USA Honor Society, Salmagundi Club, Artists Fellowship, Inc., and is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society.
His work can be found in the collections of the Butler Institute of American Art, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Mo., Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Museum of Texas Tech University, Salmagundi Club, Dunnegan Gallery of Fine Art, and the United States Air Force collection.
He is the author of “Enrich Your Paintings With Texture”, North Light Publications.
During his nearly forty-year career, photographer Michael P. Smith (1937-2008) immersed himself in the larger world of New Orleans’s musical culture. At public events, from music festivals and concerts to street parades both mournful and celebratory, Smith was there with his Nikon cameras and, in later years, a tape recorder.
Beyond his public presence, Smith earned the trust of musicians and churchgoers who let him into their private lives. These relationships allowed him to create a photographic record bearing witness to often elusive cultural and spiritual events.
Though documentary in style, his photographs transcend the mere description of their subjects, pushing viewers to consider the cultural diversity of the world around them.