Robert Havell Jr.

Birth: 1793


Robert Havell Jr. (25 November 1793 – 11 November 1878) was a famous painter and printmaker. Most widely known as the engraver of John James Audubon's masterpiece, The Birds of America (1827–38), Havell actually enhanced Audubon's originals. His hand-colored, engraved Birds surpass Audubon's watercolors in precision, clarity, and visual dynamism. Shortly after completing that project, in 1839 Havell emigrated to the United States.

At first he specialized in engravings of his own topographical views, often depicting New York City or the Hudson River Valley, although he also traveled throughout the Northeast. After 1850 he apparently abandoned printmaking to devote himself to landscapes in watercolor and oil. Extending English and Dutch formulas as he contributed to the Hudson River School, his poetic American prospects combine closely observed detail and atmosphere with expansive space.

Born in Reading, as a young man Havell worked in the busy London engraving shop owned by his father and grandfather, as well as at another establishment, while in his spare time pursuing his lifelong interest in making watercolor sketches of the countryside. After arriving in New York, he lived in Brooklyn until 1842, when he moved to Sing Sing, (now Ossining), on the Hudson River. In 1857 he moved several miles south, to Tarrytown, where he died.


The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists

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