Charley Harper

Charley Harper (1922 - 2007) was an American Modernist artist best known for his greatly stylised wildlife paintings, posters and book illustrations. Harper’s art can be described as minimal realism. "I don't try to put everything in", he explains, "I try to leave everything out … I never count the feathers in the wings; I just count the wings".

Brought up on his family’s farm, Harper decided early on that he did not want to be a farmer. In forth grade, he realised he could draw better than anyone else in his class, and so his love of art began.

Harper studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. While at the Academy, he met fellow artist Edie McKee, whom he married shortly following their graduation in 1947. Soon after, Harper got a job at a commercial art studio as a realistic illustrator. It didn’t take long for him to realise that he was not suited to this type of work, and so he pursued his own style as an artist, “…the impulse to caricature and simplify at the same time.”

During his career, Harper taught design and illustration at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. He also produced advertising material for many companies across America. He found most satisfaction, however, in illustrating wildlife books and created works for a variety of conservation organisations.

Harper asked the people who enjoyed his art to remember that “I didn't start out to paint a bird - the bird already existed. I started out to paint a picture of a bird, a picture which didn't exist before I came along, a picture which gives me a chance to share with you my thoughts about the bird.”

Harper usually named his paintings after they were complete – playfully using puns as a verbal extension of the image. Ten Things are excited to be offering the Charley Harper prints: Gregarious Grosbeaks; Puffins PassingUpside Downside; Octoberama; and Darwin's Finches.

View our Charley Harper prints here.