The Toledo Museum of Art will present “Rare and Wondrous: Birds in Art and Culture 1620-1820” from April 24 to July 25.
The exhibition, curated by TMA’s Head of Interpretive Projects and Managing Editor Paula Reich, will showcase the Museum’s recent acquisition of the important six-volume series “Ornithologie,” written by Mathurin-Jacques Brisson, illustrated by François-Nicolas Martinet and published in 1760.
“Rare and Wondrous” will also feature paintings, prints and decorative arts from TMA’s collection, as well as select loans of significant prints and illustrated books from the Yale Center for British Art, the University of Michigan Museums Library and Special Collections, and the Bowling Green State University Libraries Center for Archival Collections.
This is the fifth in a series of bird-themed exhibitions that are timed to coincide with the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival that traditionally takes place in the Toledo area each spring.
This particular exhibit was originally slated to show a year ago, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and visitor restrictions at the museum. Given the circumstances, the museum staff expects there will be even more interest in the topic.
“The coronavirus pandemic has prompted greater interest in nature and the outdoors, and humans have always had a particular fascination with birds,” Reich said. “We’re glad to be able to shift our schedule and give our visitors an opportunity to learn about how birds – including ‘exotic’ birds brought from foreign lands – informed European culture in the early modern era, not just in art but in science, decorative design and fashion.”
During the historical era covered by the exhibition, primarily the 17th and 18th centuries, there was a great interest among European audiences on natural history. Ornithology, the study of birds and their classification, made especially great strides in the second half of the 1700s. Monarchs and aristocrats collected them in cabinets of curiosities and menageries, artists painted them, moralizers found symbolic meaning in them and women wore their feathers as accessories.
The exhibit will trace those stories of images of exotic birds. It will also explore the contributions that Indigenous and enslaved people made to European scientific knowledge about birds and their visual representation.
“Rare and Wondrous: Birds in Art and Culture 1620-1820” is sponsored by 2021 Exhibition Program sponsors Taylor Cadillac and ProMedica, with support from the McLoughlin Family Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.
Admission to the Museum is free, but visitors are required to register at the Information Desks when they arrive. The Museum is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Special hours for at-risk populations are Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and all major holidays.
The Museum is located at 2445 Monroe Street at Scottwood Avenue, near I-75, with exit designations posted. For information, call (419) 255-8000 or (800) 644-6862, or go to toledomuseum.org.