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John Abbot, (1751 – 1840); Yellow Vent, n.d.; watercolor on paper; gift of Mrs. Holly Symmes Montford in memory of her father, Mr. John Cleves Symmes, Jr., 2005.26.1

Dazzled by their colorful plumage, mesmerized by their aviation skills, and enchanted by their songs, humans have long been fascinated with birds. They have become potent symbols of human affairs and beliefs from the spiritual to the nationalistic. Forever the “canaries in the coal mine,” birds also figure significantly in our understanding of the fragile balance of our ecosystems. These powerful associations with birds make their way into the work of artists seeking to document species and the wonders of bird behavior, or simply to celebrate birds in expressive paint. Others have attempted to replicate their beauty and delicacy on ornaments intended for the dining table. This exhibition explores the ways in which birds have captured artists’ imaginations, highlighting works of fine and decorative arts from Telfair’s permanent collection.

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