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Inspiring Conversations with John Cowan

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Cowan.

Hi John, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
As a child, I would awaken early Saturday mornings with my father to visit the Ann Arbor Antiques Market to hunt for original Audubon and other rare prints of natural history. It was a great feeling to be able to learn from my father who has been an influential presence in the Audubon print world. He passed along the profound appreciation for John James Audubon, the unique engraving methods of production, editions, and how to assess a true print versus a reproduction. I was fortunate to be able to grow up with not only Havell, Bien, and Octavo edition prints from the Birds of America collection displayed throughout our home, but with a library of rich history about the man behind the works of art, expeditions, and legacy.

In following in this tradition, I made my first Audubon acquisition, a Snowy Owl 1st edition Octavo in my early thirties. Framed and preserved in archival mating with UV-filtering acrylic and hung on the wall, it is a daily reminder of the beauty of our natural world that needs our protection. The detail and color are spectacular. The pandemic has focused a lot of people’s attention inward to evaluate their values, their inspiration, and what makes a place home. During this period, both my wife and I have curated a collection of unique Birds of America prints that not only represent the greater St. Louis area’s flora and fauna but that from the various historic expeditions of John James Audubon branching far north, south, east, and westward. Today, we are sharing our passion for these beautiful, one of a kind, aquatint engravings made prior to the Civil War. These bird prints were often drawn from first-of-their-kind specimens, discoveries of the time.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Audubon prints are a niche market of which the majority of our customer base older adults. Our biggest obstacle is trying to appeal to a younger audience.

Currently, we are completely digital operation versus having our dream, walk-through gallery, with prints, hung against historic brick backdrops with the ability to show these works in-person. Once the pandemic settles down, we hope to be able to host such venues at a gallery space of our own.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
St. Louis Audubon is a collection of rare, historical prints selected and carefully curated for their preservation quality, authenticity, and unique composition. Aududon’s work has helped to foster a deep connection between art appreciation and conservation, and I am passionate about helping others begin or grow their collection.

The work of Audubon is as legendary as the man himself. He was a naturalist, painter, and explorer who influenced such great minds as naturalist Charles Darwin and conservationist George Grinnell.

A unique aspect of our gallery is our offering of economical, entry-level prints that are real and true to form. We provide each print-in archival mat and framing solutions that ensure the preservation of your work of art for generations to come.

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