Charley Harper (American, 1922–2007) loved animals and nature but was quick to remind folks that he was an artist, not a naturalist. He learned to love nature and wildlife as a child growing up in rural West Virginia, and he developed his unique “minimal realist” style while a student at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the Art Students League in New York City. Brett Harper, son of Charley and his artist wife, Edie (American, 1922–2010), recalls that his father “never owned or used a computer to draw. Rather, Charley maintained a collection of . . . compasses, T squares, and french curves with which he applied lines to paper via a ruling pen filled with india ink.” Using geometric shapes, patterns, and vivid colors, Harper simplified nature’s complexities and brought out the personality of each critter he drew.
In the 1960s, Harper illustrated two books that would become children’s classics: The Giant Golden Book of Biology
and The Animal Kingdom
. A lifelong conservationist, he went on to design posters for the National Park Service, the National Audubon Society, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and other organizations. An updated version of Harper’s 1994 book, Beguiled by the Wild
, is published by Pomegranate (2016).