African Harrier Hawk

Louis Agassiz Fuertes

This week we have the pleasure of introducing you to Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927). Louis was an American ornithologist, illustrator, and artist who set the rigorous and current-day standards for ornithological art and naturalist depiction and is considered as one of the most prolific American bird artists, second only to his guiding professional predecessor John James Audubon.

Here at #SpaceWhaleCo love his work and have many of the scans of some of his best original works. We print his work with a lot of care, all our prints are Giclée images produced in-house using the best Japanese pigment-based Archival inks exclusively printed to order on Museum quality fine art papers such as Epson Signature Worthy, Canson Infinity, Ilford Galerie Prestige and Hahnemühle.

African Sea Eagle
Album of Abyssinian birds and mammals Chicago :Field Museum of Natural History,1930.

Louis was born in Ithaca, New York, and was the son of Puerto Rican astronomer and civil engineer Estevan Fuertes and Mary Stone Perry Fuertes. His father was the founding professor of the School of Civil Engineering at Cornell University, and for many years served as the dean of the college. Estevan named his son after the Swiss-born American naturalist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz who had died the year before. Fuertes’s mother was of Dutch ancestry.

Young Louis became interested in birds at a very early age, securing birds with a slingshot and examining them carefully.

As a child he had been influenced by John James Audubon’s The Birds of America. At the age of fourteen, he made his first painting of a bird, a male red crossbill, from life. He learned to keep careful records of the appearance, habits and voices of birds.

Hooping Crane by John James Audubon
Hooping Crane from Birds of America (1827) by John James Audubon (1785 – 1851), etched by Robert Havell (1793 – 1878). The original Birds of America is the most expensive printed book in the world and a truly awe-inspiring classic.

In 1890 he sent a specimen that he collected to the Smithsonian and received stellar praise and glowing comments on its rarity and accuracy and in 1891, at the young age of 17, Louis became the youngest member ever named when he was inducted as Associate Member of the American Ornithologists’ Union.

In June 1892 he accompanied his parents to Europe and sketched birds and animals at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. In September he joined the Institute of Keller, a school in Zurich, staying on for a year.

Egyptian Vulture
Album of Abyssinian birds and mammals Chicago :Field Museum of Natural History,1930.

In 1898, he made his first expedition, with Thayer and his son Gerald, to Florida. In 1899, Fuertes accompanied E. H. Harriman on his famous exploration of the Alaska coastline, the Harriman Alaska Expedition.

He later traveled across much of the United States and to many countries in pursuit of birds, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and Ethiopia. Fuertes collaborated with Frank Chapman, curator of the American Museum of Natural History, on many assignments including field research, background dioramas at the museum, and book illustrations. While on a collecting expedition with Chapman in Mexico, Fuertes discovered a species of oriole

Check out the rest of his amazing work on our Vintage Collections section!