Louis Agassiz Fuertes, artist, explorer and natural scientist, is considered by many to have been America's greatest bird painter, surpassing even Audubon. A native of Ithaca, New York, he produced thousands of (especially) song bird paintings during his career. At Cornell University, the internationally famous Laboratory of Ornithology and the Fuertes observatory were established in his honor.

In the early part of the 20th century, calotype was the main process used to reproduce watercolors. Calotype, typified by a random and fine grain, is the oldest (1855) and one of the most delicate printing processes to use a photography-related procedure, the printing surface being a light-sensitized gelatin. The last firm to use this exacting but rewarding process closed in England in 1983. The main disadvatages of calotype were the limited number of impressions (only a few hundred) obtainable from each plate and the relative slowness of the process.

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