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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Louis Agassiz Fuertes was born in 1874 and grew up in Ithaca, NY. From youth, Fuertes showed an interest in birds and the outdoors; even capturing an owl that his parents found tied by its leg to the kitchen table. In 1888 when Fuertes was just fourteen he drew and painted his first bird; a male Red Crossbill. Fuertes went to college at Cornell University, where his father taught. In November of 1896, Dr. Elliot Coues introduced Fuertes to the scientific community at the American Ornithologists' Union annual meeting in Cambridge, MA. There he gave a talk on his thesis for Cornell, about the purpose of coloration in birds, particularly the vivid colors of many male species which was well received. After graduating from Cornell, Fuertes studied art with Abbot H. Thayer who remained a friend to Fuertes throughout his life. Fuertes decided to concentrate his paintings on birds, in part due to the influence of his mentor, Elliott Coues. Fuertes traveled to Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and Ethiopia in pursuit of birds.

Fuertes married his college sweetheart, Margaret F. Sumner, in 1904. Together they had two children, Mary and Sumner. Tragically, Fuertes died in 1927, when a car he was driving was hit by a moving train.

Fuertes' art went on to appear in most of the leading American ornithological works published during the latter of his lifetime. He is well known for murals and habitat groups at the American Museum of Natural History as well as "Birds of New York," a book covering almost every eastern North American species.

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