There are graphic artists whose work is designed to hang on the wall, and there are artists whose work tends in other directions. Some artists find their niche in comic strips while others find it in magazine covers. Some illustrate books and some customize cars. There are artists known for skulls etched on people’s arms and others who do portraits on paper money.
And some artists have careers which are for the birds. For some of these artists, like the anonymous artist above, considered in a previous blog, was known for his roosters. Others painted birds which flew higher but which perched briefly on postcards.
They didn’t even HAVE postcards in the days when America’s most famous birdman, John James Audubon, was pursuing a career in nature paintings. But his paintings and prints, intended for the world of frames on walls, were just the right proportion for reproduction on postcards a hundred years after the death of the artist. (The Bohemian Chatterer is now known more widely as the Bohemian Waxwing, by the way. Buy this one for your Bohemian girlfriend and you may hear a lot.)
As significant to American birdlore in the twentieth century as Audubon was in the nineteenth, Rioger Tory Peterson worked his way through art school painting furniture. He combined his studies with an interest in birdwatching and what ust have been a massive flurry of painting and in 1934 invented the natural field guide, a small volume of silhouettes and paintings which made it possible to answer the question “What IS that thing in the oak tree?” Postcards were a mere sideline to all this activity which, among other things, saw him nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. (According to the Interwebs, anyhow. I find this hard to figure, myself, but hey, other birdbrains…let’s move on.)
Postcards were, however, a major move for the National Wildlife Federation, a private organization pushed into existence by Jay N. “Ding” Darling when he found he couldn’t nag Congress into doing anything much. (Darling’s bird paintings ornamented the annual duck stamps for many years; I have not found any postcards by him, however.) Once it was founded, like any intelligent not=-for-profit, the society’s mind turned to fund raising. Not long after it began to exist, it began producing wildlife postcards.
Walter A. Weber was an artist whose use of color made him a natural for these postcards (as well as the annual National Wildlife stamps). Weber was not as much of a bird specialist, as his wildcat paintings and paintings of various dog breeds for National Geographic also had wide popularity. Some of his popular later work included eagles for the Apollo missions and U.S. Mint.
The NWF postcards were also a natural for the paintings of Lynn Bogue Hunt, best known for his covers on Field & Stream magazine. His work also graced at least one of the federal duck stamps, and could be found in limited edition books like “Grouse Feathers”, a volume for “brush worn partridge hunters” which will now run you a couple hundred.
(See, some people are squeamish about this, but a lot of conservation work is done by and on behalf of people who want to conserve wildlife for rifle and rod. It’s a perennial question: who gets more joy from wildlife: the person who gets up at three to sit in cold water in hopes of shooting a duck or the person who orders Peking Duck Pizza at the Peter Piper’s Pizza palace? But that’s a whole nother blog, not to mention a whole nother blogger.)
There are plenty of other bird artists whose work on postcards we haven’t hit yet (some folks did nothing but owl paintings for postcards.) But let’s finish with a realistic bird painter, whose ducks pleased a whole generation and never even saw a shotgun.