Great Bird Artists: Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Aug 3, 2020

One of my favorite bird artists of all time is also one of the greatest bird artists of all time: Louis Agassiz Fuertes.

Fuertes was born in Ithaca, New York in 1874. He developed an interest in birds when he was a boy and satisfied his curiosity by shooting them with his slingshot so as to examine them up close. (But don’t judge him too harshly, binoculars weren’t readily available in those days.) He made his first painting at age 14.

Although he studied architecture in college, Fuertes career was that of an illustrator. This was in the golden age of illustration, when photography still wasn’t common (or easy) and books, magazines, and newspapers all relied on artists to capture images and render them ready for printing. Because of his skill, Fuertes was in high demand and provided illustrations for numerous books and magazines.



Fuertes traveled the world painting not only birds, but also artifacts and other subjects. But his bird work is, by far, his best known and his most well developed. Unlike other artists of his time, he had a gift for capturing poses from sketches in the field. His keen observations, along with his access to very freshly collected specimens, allowed him to create portraits of birds that were lifelike and amazingly accurate.

Sadly, Fuertes was killed in an accident when he was only 53 years old. In his relatively short career, he produced over 2,500 works including drawings, oils, watercolors, gouaches, inks, charcoal sketches, and paintings for dioramas in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

To see more from a collection of his work, visit the Wikimedia Commons. [All images used in this post were obtained from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.]


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