The Little Known Bird Painter of Chickadee Valley

Recently I was introduced to the work of Rex Brasher (1869-1960), the little known bird painter, who as a boy vowed to paint every bird in North America. Brasher worked from life and painted birds in their natural habitats. Without any formal art training, Rex painted 3,000 individual birds which included males, females, and juveniles. As part of his studies, he also documented hundreds of species of trees and shrubs. In 1929 he completed Birds and Trees of North America, 100 twelve-volume copies. Several of the completed volumes still exist intact, while others have been parsed out and sold individually.

Brasher was passionate about his work, a perfectionist who twice destroyed his work for being inferior. He lived on a farm which he aptly named Chickadee Valley and traveled extensively as he documented and studied the birds of North America. From childhood he was driven to surpass John James Audubon as the preeminent bird painter. This ambition came about after his father (an amateur ornithologist) shared a personal story of once being snubbed by Audubon. A son’s drive to defend his father’s honor served as the catalyst for Rex Brasher’s life’s work. In Brasher’s lifetime, he completed 875 paintings, successfully surpassing John James Audubon’s 489.

Where are these works now? The state of Connecticut purchased the watercolors in 1941 and proposed to build a dedicated museum in Kent Falls, Connecticut. WWII halted these plans and, to Brasher’s disappointment, the paintings languished. In the 1950s the paintings were exhibited at a state park in Connecticut. Displayed in a non-climate controlled environment, curators feared damage would come to the paintings and in 1988 the collection was moved and permanently stored at the University of Connecticut Library. We can hope that someone will take an interest in the little-known bird painter’s work so that we can see them for ourselves.

Taylor Design Blog

By Nora

New Business Development / HR Director