Athos Menaboni (American, 1895-1990), Mockingbird
Athos Menaboni (American, 1895-1990)
Watercolor and gouache on paper
Titled lower center: Mockingbird
Signed lower right: Athos Menaboni
Frame size: 26 1/2 x 31 1/2 in
Athos Menaboni is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest illustrators and painters of birdlife and hailed by wildlife lovers, art collectors, and ornithologists alike as the twentieth-century Audubon. A significant figure in Atlanta art, Athos Menaboni built a monumental reputation, achieving nationwide fame in the 1940s and 1950s. Like Audubon, Menaboni’s attentiveness to nature is both dramatic and enchanting, but unlike his distinguished predecessor, he sketched from live specimens, thereby surpassing Audubon in endowing his subjects with vitality.
Born in Italy, Menaboni worked his way to the United States in 1920 as a freighter crew member. He lived in Virginia, New York, and Florida until 1928, when he met and married Sara Arnold, a native of Rome, Georgia. The two eventually settled in Atlanta, on a five-acre woodland sanctuary complete with extensive aviaries.
Menaboni began his career by painting murals; he later combined his painting skills with his hobby, studying birds and becoming an ornithological illustrator. Throughout his flourishing career, his technical innovations evolved and developed. Menaboni devoted himself to experimentation, exploring a wide range of mediums: painting on canvas, silk, glass, Masonite, wood panels, gesso covered board, and mirrors. He developed the “undercoat method,” a painting technique in thin, delicate layers of oil that gives watercolor transparency but allows more depth and detail than watercolor produces. Reflected in many of his works is his deep love of the sea, and his landscapes, botanicals, and mosaics are as impressive as his birds, but it is for his birds that he is world-renowned. His work brought him international fame and numerous awards, appealing to wildlife lovers, naturalists, art collectors, and ornithologists alike. During his career, which spanned over sixty years, he painted over 150 American bird species in their native surroundings. His delightful compositions, rendered with a keen eye for subtle detail, capture nature’s wondrous colors and details. Menaboni’s style is distinctive for its detailed and meticulous analysis. As the artist himself said, “You cannot improve on nature, you must capture it -- and transfer it to canvas.”
Menaboni’s art is widespread, appearing in major museums and private collections throughout the world, and his artistic talent has been an inspiration to many. In the past few years, his official recognition has grown exponentially with the mounting of numerous retrospectives, including one at the Marietta/ Cobb Museum of Art (1999) and the Albany Museum of Art (2001)
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