The Old Print Shop

Rex Brasher

1869-1960

Rex Brasher was an American wildlife illustrator, born in Brooklyn, New York. Over the course of several decades, Brasher produced 875 watercolors, illustrating 1,200 bird species and sub-species listed in the American Ornithologists' Union's "Checklist of North American Birds." Incredibly, this amounts to nearly twice as many paintings as John James Audubon. He was also noted for having destroyed some 700 works along the way because he was dissatisfied with how they came out, committed to depicting each bird as lifelike as possible.

Capturing each of the North American birds was not easy. Brasher took whatever odd-job he could find to finance his trips; fishing, farming, carpentry, etc. He even bet on horses, which once financed a trip through the Mid-west. In 1911, after earning $700 for illustrating a book, Brasher set up a permanent residence in Kent, Connecticut. 

Brasher started the long process of publishing his work in 1924. The cost of having all 875 watercolors printed in color was prohibitive, but did not dissuade him from pushing forward. Instead, Brasher sought out the Meriden Gravure Company, which produced black and white photogravures for him. Brasher than spent the next four years handcoloring them for his book "Birds and Trees of North America." In total, his labor of love amounted to a 12-volume series, published in an edition of 100, amounting to more than 87,000 handcolored plates.

 

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