Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio
April 12 through October 20, 2024


New York, NY – The Morgan Library & Museum is pleased to present  Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio. Opening April 12 and on view through October 20, 2024, the exhibition celebrates the 2019 gift from artist Walton Ford (b. 1960) to the Morgan of sixty-three studies and sketches, shown publicly for the first time. Ford is fascinated by the perception of wild animals in the human imagination, and his monumental watercolors subvert historical conventions of animal painting. This exhibition examines the artist’s working process, illuminating the role that historical, literary, cultural, and scientific research plays in his practice. Presented together with drawings of animals and birds selected by the artist from the Morgan’s holdings, this exhibition sheds new light on the museum’s collection from the perspective of a living artist.

Birds and Beasts of the Studio opens with a selection of Ford’s drawings inspired by his visits to the American Museum of Natural History, New York. To this day, he visits the museum to explore its archives, field studies, documents, and taxidermy specimens. This section of the exhibition reveals the extensive scientific research that grounds Ford’s artistic practice, which relies on attention to detail and the accuracy of animal features. The second section presents some of Ford’s studies and watercolors that imagine encounters between lions and humans, and are largely based on true stories. These works include a series centered on the Barbary lion—a now extinct subspecies which fought gladiators in ancient Rome and was used as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) mascot. Also on view are compositional sketches from a series inspired by the escape of eight lions in Leipzig in 1913, as well as a work in which a lion devours famed Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix (1798– 1863). Though humans hardly appear in Ford’s work, the interest of human culture is always evident.

Similarly, the works in the third section elaborate on the story of a black panther that escaped the Zurich Zoo and spent weeks alone in the countryside before being caught and eaten by a farmer. In dozens of paintings and drawings, Ford visualizes the panther surviving in the snowy Alps. While some pieces depict the panther from the point of view of Swiss villagers, others imagine the animal’s viewpoint, or feature dreamlike apparitions.

These sections are followed by a selection of titles from Ford’s personal library, bringing focus to his literary source material. The presentation highlights the wide range of texts in Ford’s collection, from volumes of natural history and early colonial travel diaries to folktales and fables. 

The installation concludes with a presentation of pieces selected by Ford from the Morgan’s extensive holdings, accompanied by wall texts written by the artist. Ford’s commentary highlights his expertise on artistic depictions of animals throughout the centuries, providing insights into the creative process in many of these works. The selection features some of the Morgan’s finest animal drawings executed between the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries, including work by Rembrandt van Rijn, John James Audubon, Eugène Delacroix, and Beatrix Potter.

Highlights of the exhibition include three of Ford’s large scale watercolors on loan from private collections, paired with their respective studies.

Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library & Museum, said, “It is a great pleasure to present this exhibition in collaboration with Walton Ford, celebrating the generous gift of his outstanding studies and sketches to the Morgan. Shown alongside exceptional works selected by the artist from our collection, in addition to being introduced to Walton’s working practice, visitors will also have the opportunity to encounter historic works through the perspective of a living artist.”

This exhibition is organized by Isabelle Dervaux, former Acquavella Curator and Department Head of Modern and Contemporary Drawings, and Jennifer Tonkovich, Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawings and Prints.


Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio

April 12–October 6, 2024

The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street New York, NY 10016



Public Programs:

Curator Talk – Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio Friday, April 12, 2024, 5:30 – 6:15 PM Explore objects and themes in special exhibitions with Morgan Library & Museum curators. Jennifer Tonkovich, Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawing and Prints, and Deirdre Jackson, Assistant Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts will lead a tour of Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio with a focus on big cats and extinction narratives in the work of Ford and his natural history predecessors.


In Conversation: Walton Ford

Friday, May 10, 2024, 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Teen Tour and Workshop

Wednesday, September 25, 2024, 4:30 – 6:00 PM Teens ages 13 -18 are invited to join artist Walton Ford for an exclusive tour of his exhibition Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio, followed by a workshop led by the artist. 


Family Programs:

All activities are free with museum admission. The Morgan is free to children twelve and under.


Spring Family

Fair Sunday, May 5, 2024, 2:00 – 4:30 PM

Celebrate the spring season with the reopening of the Morgan Garden and enjoy artmaking, storytime, and hands-on activities themed to our current exhibitions, including Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature and Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio. 


Family First Saturdays: Exhibition Tour and Storytime at the Morgan

Saturday, September 7, 2024, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Saturday, October 5, 2024, 11 AM–12 PM Recommended for families and children ages 4–8.

Leap off the page with our family program for young readers. Enjoy a family tour of the exhibition Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio followed by a picture book storytime.

In September, we will read A Home Under the Stars written and illustrated by Andy Chou Musser. In October, we will read Solitary Animals: Introverts of the Wild written by Joshua David Stein and illustrated by Dominique Ramsey. 


Artist-led Gallery Tour and Sketch Night with Walton Ford

Thursday, October 3, 2024 6:00 – 8:00 PM Explore the natural world through drawings by Walton Ford. Look closely at his compositional sketches, watercolors, and detailed renderings based on observations in zoos and natural history museums. The artist will lead a walkthrough of his exhibition Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio from 6:00 to 6:30 PM, followed by gallery sketching.

Artists of all skill levels are encouraged to attend. Paper and pencils will be provided. While artists are welcome to bring their own materials, please note that ink, paint, markers, charcoal, chalk, pastels, folding stools, and easels are not permitted. 



Walton Ford: Birds and Beasts of the Studio is supported by the Alex Gordon Fund for Exhibitions, Thomas J. Reid and Christina M. Pae, Gagosian, and Bettina Bryant. The exhibition is a program of the Morgan Drawing Institute. 



A museum and independent research library located in the heart of New York City, the Morgan Library & Museum began as the personal library of financier, collector, and cultural benefactor J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913). The Morgan offers the public close encounters with great works of human accomplishment in a setting treasured for its intimate scale and historic significance. Its collection of manuscripts, rare books, music, drawings, and works of art comprises a unique and dynamic record of civilization, as well as an incomparable repository of ideas and of the creative process from 4000 BC to the present. 


The Morgan Library & Museum

225 Madison Avenue, NYC

212.685.0008 | themorgan.org 


Visit AAQ Museum Portfolio:

The Morgan Library & Museum, 2006 — Celebrating 100 Years / 2024


AAQ / Resource: Ben Krupinski Builder