Energetic, gifted and vain, Audubon was self-taught and self-made. Born in what is now Haiti, the illegitimate son of a French plantation owner and his Haitian servant girl mistress, Audubon ultimately became the quintessential American pioneer. On the frontier he played the debonair European. In the drawing rooms of Europe, he acted the part of the wild woodsman. From the Caribbean and the French countryside, he eventually settled in the American South at age 19 and, after failed business efforts and bankruptcy, pursued his true passion B finding, shooting and drawing birds B ultimately realizing his dream of publishing The Birds of America, the monumental collection of 435 life-size prints, now each fetching more than $100,000 at auction. Although faithful to his long-suffering wife, he nonetheless wrote her lengthy letters bursting with details of his encounters with other women. Jailed once for bankruptcy, he went on to dine at the White House. He was praised by royalty, shunned by his in-laws and blackballed by the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. The American Master=s special details Audubon=s epic adventures while capturing the full-scale beauty of his definitive book. Says producer Susan Lacy, AHe was a genuine American character. His life story reads like the stuff of great fiction.@ The National Audubon Society, with more than a half-million members today, makes his legacy ever relevant. American Masters: John James Audubon: “Drawn from Nature,” airs on KUED-Channel 7 Wednesday, July 25, at, 8 p.m.
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