If you’re a birder, art lover, or environmentalist—even if you just simply appreciate nature—take some time out to remember Roger Tory Peterson, the legendary bird artist-conservationist. Today marks what would have been his 104th birthday. And in less than two weeks, admirers can pay him homage, perhaps even take home some RTP paraphernalia, when about 500 pieces of his work go up for auction on September 8th.
Hosted by Guernsey’s—known for “innovative” auctions (one showcased artwork from the Soviet Union that had been sold during the Cold War)—the upcoming show will feature items from Peterson’s estate that have never been sold before. Indeed, as far as Guernsey’s founder Arlan Ettinger knows, the only other time Peterson’s work has been auctioned off was as a small sampling, offered a few years ago by Christie’s. “I think [ours is an] as-good-as-it’s-ever-going-to-get cross section of his work,” says Ettinger. “This is one’s really only opportunity to acquire [his work].”
Peterson, as fans know, was prolific—his revolutionary Field Guide to the Birds is just one of many achievements. As Kenn Kaufman wrote four years ago on the centennial anniversary of Peterson's birth, “We could view him as an author who wrote two dozen books and hundreds of magazine articles; as an editor whose field guide series eventually grew to more than 50 titles, covering everything from fish to ferns; as an artist who painted thousands of illustrations and hundreds of fine art paintings of nature; and as a photographer, filmmaker, traveler, teacher, public speaker, and (always) an expert on birds and nature.” But, adds Kaufman, he was also an environmentalist, among the first to sound the alarm on DDT and other troublesome pesticides.
“In subtle ways he brought generations of birders and naturalists to accept responsibility for the survival of the creatures they watched,” writes Kaufman, “Most young naturalists who got their start between the 1940s and the 1980s were fans of his, devouring everything he wrote and taking it to heart. As a result, we grew up with the unshakable belief that naturalists must be devoted conservationists, and vice versa.”
At Guernsey's auction, fans can expect hundreds of full-blown field guide pages, paintings, and sketches, as well as approximately 200 photographs made from Peterson’s original transparencies, which have never been printed before now. (For art lovers out there, that means every photograph is 1/1.) “Each one of these is unique,” says Ettinger, “I dare say each one is spectacular.” (Fittingly, the auction, which takes place in two sessions, will also offer a selection of John James Audubon prints.)
So what are the hot ticket auction items? “I’m an art lover, so I probably could struggle over which one of these paintings is my favorite,” says Ettinger, “but I have to tell you that, emotionally, when you realize that one of the lots is a pair of Mr. Peterson’s binoculars, you realize that that was what he was looking through to view the birds that he then painted. That strikes a chord with me.”
The Roger Tory Peterson Auction
Original Art from The Estates Of Roger Tory Peterson & Virginia Marie Peterson
Public Preview: Friday, September 7, 2012, 12:00pm - 8:00pm
Auction: Saturday, September 8, 2012
Session I: 10:00am, Session II: 2:00pm
Location: The Arader Galleries
1016 Madison Avenue
New York, NY