Before photography, it was up to illustrators to accurately record plants and animals. In the 19th century, artist John Gould set out to capture all of the known species of hummingbirds at the time, which meant traveling to different continents to observe their appearances. Ultimately, these efforts culminated in A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds, a five volume series of 360 hand-colored lithographic plates. While each of these illustrations is stunning on their own, Nicholas Rougeux took it upon himself to make a new way to enjoy Gould's magnum opus, by meticulously restoring each lithograph and artfully arranging them into a dynamic poster.
“The monograph is considered one of the finest examples of ornithological illustration ever produced, as well as a scientific masterpiece. Included in the lengthy introduction was also a complete list of 416 species,” Rougeux explains. After finding high-quality scans of the project via the Internet Archive, he set out to bring the lithographs back to their original vibrant state. “A key goal I had for this project was to find an interesting way to introduce the subject of hummingbirds to new visitors,” Rougeux writes. “I wanted to highlight the large variety of hummingbirds in Gould’s monograph on the home page as a way to engage visitors, so I planned to create a murmuration that included a hummingbird from each illustration. Ironically, hummingbirds travel alone and not in flocks, but displaying them in a murmuration still felt like a fun design exercise.”
Rougeux painstakingly arranged each hummingbird in the murmuration to ensure that each one was evenly spaced. He also wanted to display the group according to color, so that it starts with blue birds at the top and shifts into the brighter, warmer colored species. Additionally, while the original lithographs included a simple background with plants, Rougeux isolated each bird to fit into the mumuration. However, he still wanted to add some sort of setting for the hummingbirds, and created a watercolor mountain and cloud background in AI. “I have mixed feelings about AI-generated imagery but generating these images for this purpose felt like an interesting experiment that worked out well,” he says. The collage is enhanced by text labels which identify each species on the poster.
You can purchase this poster via Zazzle with a white or dark background.
Nicholas Rougeux restored John Gould's A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds and transformed the art into a poster.
Each of the hummingbirds is from Gould's original hand-colored lithographs from the 19th century.
Rougeux used the scans of all 360 plates from the Internet Archive and spent over 150 hours restoring them to their original colors.
It includes all of the hummingbird species that were known at the time.
Nicholas Rougeux: Website