|Wood ducks, from "The Geese Fly High,"|
(1939) by Florence Page Jaques.
Illustrations by Francis Lee Jaques.
It's been almost 25 years since I was introduced to the drawings and paintings of Francis Lee Jaques (1887-1969). At the time I was hanging out with "museum people," friends who either were working in the exhibits departments of natural history museums or had done so previously. It was astounding to discover such occupations existed, and a wrench to be told the field was diminishing and exhibits departments everywhere were shrinking.
Jacques was renowned in those museum circles, his background murals for the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History are considered some of the best ever painted. It is his black-and-white scratchboard drawings, however, that delight me the most.
More than 40 books are graced with Jaques illustrations, and although many are out of print, a few have recently been republished. Titles by natural history author Sigurd Olson can be found as paperback reprints on Amazon.com... with the black-and-white Jaques illustrations reproduced as well. ( I have one, the quality isn't great, but it's still Jaques.)
William O. Douglas's "My Wilderness" books are harder to come by, but I scored my early editions inexpensively on eBay some time ago.
|From "The Geese Fly High"|
Click to embiggen.
The combination of Florence's writing and Lee's illustrations made books like "The Geese Fly High," "Snowshoe Country," and "Canoe Country" irresistible to me. ("Snowshoe County" and "Canoe Country" have been reprinted as a single volume by the University of Minnesota Press.)
|One more from "The Geese Fly High"|
Lee's bold graphic sense and sensitive, calligraphic line... the balance of black and white. Wow. Just wow. I often look at these illustrations and "see" them in color... the sense of space and atmosphere seems uncanny. I love everything about this work... composition, line quality, shapes... (sigh). Yeah. Hero.
And for those of us who have recently been discussing all the jobs we've had on our way to arts careers, here's one more thing to appreciate: Francis Lee Jaques was a farmer, a taxidermist, a railroad fireman, a lumberjack, and a soldier before he found his place at the American Museum.
More about Francis Lee and Florence Page Jaques can be found at the Jaques Art Center in Aitkin, Minnesota. One of these days I'm gonna get there....