The Audubon, Part II: The Brits - Pink Flamingos

The Audubon, Part II: The Brits

If you are new to this blog, then you may not realize that my Audubon series is in a semi-Star-Wars chronology: Part III is followed by Part II, which is followed by Part I. If you haven't read Part III yet, I'd recommend starting there before jumping into Part II. If you are looking for Part I and Part II has just been published...then you'll be looking for a while, since I haven't written Part I yet. :D

Part II takes up our learnings about the great Audubons (see Part III for what I mean by this) with an artistic ornithologist Brit duo. Their groundbreaking work in the 19th century not only contributed to our understanding of avian species but also showcased the collaborative efforts of a remarkable couple. This blog explores the life and contributions of John Gould and his equally talented wife, Elizabeth.

use of ornithologist over time

John Gould was born on September 14, 1804, in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England. His passion for birds developed at a young age, and he began working as a taxidermist and natural history dealer. It was during this time that he honed his artistic skills in depicting birds. Elizabeth Coxen, born in 1804, married John in 1829. A talented artist herself, she shared his love for natural history and quickly became an integral part of his work.

John Gould: By Collection gallery (2018-03-30): CC-BY-4.0, CC BY 4.0,
John Gould, by Collection gallery (2018-03-30): CC-BY-4.0, CC BY 4.0,

John and Elizabeth's collaboration was extraordinary. John was an excellent observer of birds, and Elizabeth was a skilled artist. Her precise illustrations brought John's observations to life, making their synergistic work highly regarded in scientific circles. Together, they produced numerous illustrated volumes on birds, many of which are considered classics today.

Notable Publications:

  1. The Birds of EuropeThis monumental work, published in multiple volumes from 1832 to 1837, featured exquisite illustrations of European birds. Elizabeth's artistry captured the nuances of each species, making it a valuable resource for ornithologists and bird enthusiasts. John's role was primarily that of an observer and scientific describer.
  2. The Birds of Australia: The Goulds embarked on a monumental journey to Australia in 1838, where they documented and illustrated the country's unique avian fauna. Elizabeth's illustrations once again played a crucial role in bringing these exotic birds to the world's attention. John's meticulous observations were the foundation of this work.
  3. The Birds of Asia: Their partnership extended to Asia, where they explored and documented the continent's avian diversity. Their work on Asian birds, published between 1850 and 1883, remains a significant contribution to ornithology. Elizabeth's illustrations continued to be a key component of their publications.

Gould Tropical Birds
The Gould tropical bird print collection available from Pink Flamingos includes: New Hebrides Parakeets, Beautiful Parakeets, Earl of Derby Parakeet (top); South American Macaw, Pennant's Parakeets, Yellow Rump Parakeets (bottom). Each of these prints measure about 10" wide by 12" tall and are printed on heavy paper (printed by Goes Lithographing circa 1940-1960).


South American Macaw detail
Closeup on the detail of the South American Macaw lithograph from Goes Lithographing circa 1940-1960. 


New Hebrides Parakeet mockup photo
New Hebrides Parakeets lithograph, 10" x 12", printed circa 1940-1960.

John and Elizabeth Gould made significant contributions to the study of hummingbirds even while residing in England. Despite being far from hummingbird habitats, the Goulds obtained specimens through various means, including collectors and explorers who sent them specimens from distant lands. John's meticulous descriptions and observations, combined with Elizabeth's stunning illustrations, created a comprehensive record of these remarkable birds. Their collaborative efforts resulted in detailed documentation and vibrant illustrations of hummingbirds, especially from South America and Australia, significantly expanding our understanding of hummingbird diversity and behavior. Their work continues to be a valuable resource for researchers and bird enthusiasts worldwide, leaving an enduring legacy in the field of ornithology.

Pink Flamingos is fortunate to have four beautiful lithographs printed in the 1940s of Elizabeth's hand-colored engravings of several species of hummingbirds. These images are even more remarkable when considering that the couple had primarily taxidermized specimens available for observation, as hummingbirds did not typically survive for long on the trip over to England from the Americas. 

Glaucis Fraseri, GouldHylonympha Macrocerca, GouldPetasophora Lolata, GouldThalurania Refulgens, Gould

Set of four vintage Gould hummingbird lithographs available from Pink Flamingos: Glaucis Fraseri, Hylonympha Macrocerca, Petasophora Iolata, Thalurania Refulgens. Each of these lithographs were printed in 1946 by I.B. Fischer Co. of New York City and measure 16" wide by 20" tall. Note that my dad (Dana Mayes) who originally purchased the lot of new vintage Gould Hummingbird lithographs that we have in our inventory, recommends having these prints framed using an oval mat to further enhance their beauty and appeal. Lithographs of similar quality printed more recently (2009) can be found for purchase online to complete the set, albeit at a higher cost per print.


Hylonympha macrocerca closeuphylonympha macrocerca closeup
Closeups of the detail of Hylonympha Macrocerca.


Closeup of Petasophora Iolata
Closeup of the detail of Petasophora Iolata.

 John and Elizabeth's shared passion for the natural world extended to their family life as well. The couple had several children together, and it's no surprise that their offspring grew up immersed in the world of ornithology and natural history. Their son, John Henry Gould, continued his parents' legacy by becoming an ornithologist and a zoologist. He also assisted his father in his work. Additionally, Elizabeth and John had several daughters, including Elizabeth Coxen Gould and Rachel Gould, who, though their specific contributions may not be as widely documented as their parents', were undoubtedly influenced by their family's devotion to the study of birds and the natural sciences. The Goulds' family commitment to the world of ornithology underscores the enduring influence of John and Elizabeth's remarkable partnership.

Tragically, Elizabeth Gould's life was cut short at the age of 37. In 1841, while the Goulds were in Australia during their ornithological expedition, Elizabeth fell seriously ill. Despite the best medical care available at the time, she succumbed to her illness on August 2, 1841. Her untimely death was a devastating loss to both the world of ornithology and to John personally. Elizabeth's artistic talents and unwavering support had been instrumental in their collaborative work, and her passing marked the end of their incredible partnership. John Gould continued their work, honoring her memory by completing their projects and ensuring that her contributions to the study of birds would be remembered alongside his own. After Elizabeth's passing, John collaborated with other artists to illustrate his later publications.

Elizabeth Gould
Elizabeth Gould, by unknown .This image is from an oil portrait by an unknown artist, painted after Elizabeth’s death in 1841. -, Public Domain,

John and Elizabeth Gould's legacy is twofold. Firstly, they expanded our knowledge of the avian world, providing detailed descriptions and illustrations of countless species. Secondly, their collaboration challenged the societal norms of their time, as Elizabeth's contributions were acknowledged and valued.

Their dedication to ornithology and their remarkable partnership have left an indelible mark on the field. Today, their works are cherished by bird enthusiasts and scholars alike, reminding us of the power of love, artistry, and science combined.

John and Elizabeth Gould's love story was painted with feathers, ink, and passion for the natural world. Their collaborative efforts in ornithology continue to inspire generations of scientists and artists, showing that when two dedicated individuals come together, they can soar to great heights, even among the birds in the sky.


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