TOLEDO -- Just as the sound of songbirds evokes springtime, the names John James Audubon, Alexander Wilson, John Gould and Roger Tory Peterson are synonymous with the finest representations of birds ever made.
To welcome spring and the area's annual Biggest Week in American Birding festival, the Toledo Museum of Art is presenting a special exhibition featuring 45 works by these and other artists known for their study and exquisite depictions of birds.
"In Fine Feather: Birds, Art & Science" will be on view April 25-July 6 in Gallery 18. The exhibition chronicles the intersection of natural science and art in the pursuit of describing and identifying birds, from a medieval treatise on falconry to Audubon's Birds of America and today's field guide. Admission is free.
It's the second time in three years that the museum has given a gallery over to birds -- the first was 2012's popular "For the Birds" exhibition. This new exhibition is completely different with the sole exception of Audubon's, The Passenger Pigeon.
"In Fine Feather shows the importance of art to the field of ornithology. We can see an evolution over time in the way birds were studied and depicted," said exhibition curator Paula Reich, the museum's head of interpretative projects and managing editor. "What's more, the images of these birds are really stunning as works of art."
Works on display include hand-colored engravings, etchings, lithographs, watercolors and books. The oldest is a reproduction of a 13th-century manuscript on falconry that is often cited as the earliest illustrated book about birds.
Five watercolors by Peterson recently acquired by the museum are on view for the first time. Peterson, considered the father of the modern field guide, has had a major influence on the field of ornithology and ecology. Noted bird authority Kenn Kaufman talks about Peterson's impact on the study of birds and his influence on Kaufman's own life in a videotaped interview that is part of the exhibition.
In addition to works on paper from the museum's collection, the exhibition includes art loaned by local collectors, libraries and organizations, including the Toledo Club, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Bowling Green State University and the Ohio Historical Society. Also featured are three watercolors by David Allen Sibley, loaned by the artist, whose update of the 2000 bestseller, "The Sibley Guide to Birds," comes out this spring.
In related programming, the museum and the Nature Conservancy of Ohio will present an Inside/Outside Birding and Nature Tour at 1 p.m. May 18.
The first half of the free program will be an exploration of birds seen in the exhibition with Kaufman. Next, participants will trek outdoors with Terry Seidel, director of land acquisition for the Nature Conservancy in Ohio, to explore the museum's Georgia and David K. Welles Sculpture Garden, home to a surprising variety of plans and bird life. Space is limited and pre-registration is required.
Call 419-255-8000, ext. 7432 to register.
In Fine Feather is made possible by members of the Toledo Museum of Art and the Ohio Arts Council through a sustainability grant program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Admission to the Museum is free. Parking is free for members and $5 for nonmembers. For more information, visit toledomuseum.org.