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The Art of the Line

Roger Tory Peterson: The Art of the Line

Roger Tory Peterson was best known as America’s king of bird watching and field identification. His landmark book, A Field Guide to the Birds, first published in 1934, started a 62-year career as a field guide author, illustrator and editor that continues to inform and inspire us to know and love nature firsthand. Yet, the color plates that grace the pages of Peterson’s field guides were only part of his life as a nature educator. Often the most practical way for Peterson to make his point was in black and white with India ink and crow-quill pen. This exhibition celebrates Peterson’s mastery of this age-old medium with a display of over 50 rare originals from the Institute’s permanent collection, never before seen by the public.

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Form, perspective, and texture are the black and white illustrator’s stock in trade. Peterson learned to draw from masters at New York’s Art Students League and National Academy of Design and refined his own practice as a master draftsman throughout his storied career. We hope that by studying these illustrations the viewer will gain a new appreciation for Peterson’s life and work as the most celebrated naturalist of the 20th century.