REX BRASHER’S BIRDS EXHIBITED @ KML
Press Release 6/20/16
(Kent, Connecticut) – An exhibit of one of America’s great bird artists, Rex Brasher (1869-1960), titled, “Secrets of the Friendly Woods – Rex Brasher’s Birds” at the Kent Memorial Library will be on display July 1 until August 30, 2016.
At the age of eight, Brasher decided to paint all the birds in North America from life, in their natural habitats. He traveled the continent to study birds and sketched them in the field, financing his expeditions by working as a lithographer and playing the horses. Despite having no formal art training, he painted some 1,200 species and subspecies of birds, 3,000 individual birds, including males, females and juveniles, and over 350 species of trees and shrubs. Twice he destroyed all his paintings because they were not good enough and started over.
Brasher purchased a farm on the border between Kent, CT, and Amenia, NY, which he named Chickadee Valley, in 1911. He became involved in the community, and was one of the founders of the Kent Art Association. By working daily from sunup until the mid-afternoon, Brasher finally completed 874 watercolors of all the birds in North America by the mid 1920’s. He wanted to keep the collection intact, but he also wanted a wider audience for his work.
He decided to have black and white prints made from the original paintings, and, using an air- brush technique, hand colored some 90,000 prints that were then bound into books. Birds and Trees of North America was sold by subscription and contained twelve hand-bound volumes. Each plate was numbered according to the American Ornithological Society’s system and accompanied by a text page. The complete sets that still exist today are held privately or can be found in public or university libraries. Because he launched the project on the eve of the Great Depression and some subscribers backed out, this exhibit contains some of the completed original prints, as well as Brasher’s observations about the birds.
In 1941 Brasher sold all the original watercolor paintings to the state of Connecticut with the expectation that they would be housed in a museum. For many years, the paintings could be viewed at the Harkness Museum in Waterford, CT, but they were removed in 1988 and placed in conservation storage in the Dodd Center at the University of Connecticut. In cooperation with the UCONN Foundation and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, the Rex Brasher Association commissioned digital photographs of fourteen original paintings of threatened and endangered bird species in CT and the Northeast, which are also part of this exhibit.
Please join us on Saturday afternoon, August 20 at 4:00 p.m. for a presentation & video about the artist, followed by an opening reception from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. given by the Rex Brasher Association, Inc., whose mission it is to educate the public about the artist’s life and his work, to inspire interest in birds and the natural environment, and to find ways to exhibit the original paintings. For more information, visit www.rexbrasher.org. Donations may be sent to The Rex Brasher Association, P.O. Box 72, Kent, CT 06757.
An additional family program, Family- and Child-friendly Guided Tour of Rex Brasher’s Birds Exhibit will be held on Saturday, July 23 at 10:30 a.m. for all ages. Come learn about his methods, history, and enjoy his wonderful prints. Not a drop off. Please register.
There is no charge for the exhibit, but donations are most welcome. The presentation, opening reception and family/child guided tour are free and open to the public. Please register. For more information, call 860-927-3761 or go to kentmemoriallibrary.org.
The Kent Memorial Library’s mission is to enrich the lives of individuals and the community by providing materials, programs, and services to encourage reading, learning and imagination. The Library is located at 32 North Main Street, Kent, Connecticut. Visit kentmemoriallibrary.org for more information.