Audubon print of birds
John James Audubon, "Black-throated Diver (Arctic Loon)," 1836, hand-colored aquatint on J. Whatman paper

Backstories are in the spotlight this spring with an array of artwork from the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s collection in “Beyond Artworks: Artists & Their Stories,” on view through June 6, 2021.

More from the museum:

“Beyond Artworks” shares stories of artists, their inspiration, and how artworks were acquired by the Museum for preservation and interpretation via varied exhibitions, always admission free.

Discover the tale and trace the trail that led to the acquisition of a rare oil painting and a hand-colored aquatint by John James Audubon. Experience artworks by three generations of Wyeth painters, N.C., Andrew, and Jamie, comparing and contrasting their distinct styles and gaining insights into their inspiration and work.

Wyeth painting of a birdhouse
Jamie Wyeth, “Martin Castle,” 1989, mixed media on paper

The how’s and why’s behind artists’ inspiration are peppered throughout “Beyond Artworks.” Describing his acrylic painting of shorebirds, “Pacific,” Robert Bateman wrote: “During stressful times, I find it helpful to close my eyes, breathe deeply, and picture a pleasant, peaceful place. . . . In my vision, it’s a calm, sunny day with just the whisper of little wavelets as they touch the sand. Instead of a focal point to distract from a more meditative state, there is only a slight scattering of marine life and just the hint of bird life … unidentified shorebirds.”

Other stories emphasize the power of personal relationships. A watercolor painting by Frank Weston Benson, “Chickadees,” which had been owned by poet Robert Frost, became the perfect way to honor a member of the Museum’s founding family, fondly remembered for wearing a chickadee-embroidered sweater.

Watercolor painting of chickadees
Frank Weston Benson, “Chickadees,” 1938, watercolor on paper

Ever on the quest to continue building the Museum’s world-class collection of avian art, curator Jane Weinke noticed in a 2007 gallery newsletter an image and story about a rare oil painting, “Pacific Loons,” by John James Audubon.

Audubon painting of Loons
John James Audubon, “Pacific Loons,” ca. 1834, oil on canvas

The painting would augment several Audubon prints in the Museum’s collection and also prompt the acquisition of “Black-throated Diver,” a hand-colored aquatint created for Audubon’s The Birds of America, featuring watercolors of 435 life-size North American birds. The stories that unfold are part of “Beyond Artworks,” which provides opportunities to experience, compare, and contrast Audubon artworks.

Additional Artworks:

Oil painting of ducks
Frank Weston Benson, “Black Ducks,” 1926, oil on canvas
Drawing of an owl
Karen Bondarchuk, “My name is Hubert and I am not an owl,” 2011, charcoal and ink on Hahnemühle paper
Sculpture of birds
Walter T. Matia, “Hunger Is the Best Sauce & Paisanos,” (6/36), 2014, bronze
Watercolor painting of a sandhill crane
Chris Bacon, “Sandhill Crane,” 1996, watercolor and Prismacolor on rag board

Exhibition Details:
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
Wausau, Wisconsin
Through June 6, 2021
For more information, visit

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