The Art of Identification: Field Guide Paintings by David Sibley

September 27, 2009 - January 17, 2010

With The Art of Identification, the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon showcases nearly four decades of sketches and paintings by America’s pre-eminent field guide artist/author, David Sibley. The Sibley Guide to Birds, published in 2000, quickly became the new standard of excellence in bird identification guides, and he has recently followed it with The Sibley Guide to Trees.

Rufus Hummingbird © David Sibley
Rufus Hummingbird © David Sibley

Beginning with early childhood drawings of birds through his most recent full-color field guide illustrations of trees, the works selected for the exhibition show how drawings are tools to encourage observation and help in identification. That process of discovery and understanding is the ultimate goal of Sibley’s field sketching.

Visitors get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist’s process, viewing field sketches, reference material, tools and many finished illustrations. The cover paintings for the bird and tree field guides are highlights of the exhibition.

Sibley says, “Birdwatching is really much more than just attaching names to the things we see. It’s about searching for order, meaning, the natural patterns and rhythms in the world around us. We see the birds, learn their names, learn more about them, and in that way understand how they are connected to each other, to the plants, the weather, to the rivers and mountains, and to us.”