NU State Museum exhibit to showcase Nebraska artist Bud Pritchard
Released on 01/30/2006, at 12:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006, through Oct. 29, 2006
WHERE: University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall), 14th and U Streets
An exhibition opening Feb. 4 at the University of Nebraska State Museum showcases the work of a Nebraska artist and tells the story of a once thriving job niche that's now nearly extinct.
"C.G. Pritchard: A Retrospective," mounted in the museum's Cooper Gallery, displays hundreds of drawings and paintings by a prolific artist who worked for more than 25 years as a commercial illustrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Prichard's work was seen in the commission's Nebraskaland Magazine, and its precursor, Outdoor Nebraska, from 1949 to 1974. Art created for the magazine and other publications, works made during Pritchard's World War II service, and art commissioned for scholarly works comprise the exhibition.
Joel Nielsen, exhibits technician for the museum, and Jon Farrar, senior editor for Nebraskaland magazine, organized and mounted the exhibition, which runs through Oct. 29. Farrar wrote the exhibition notes. He worked with Pritchard for about four years -- as Farrar's career was beginning and Pritchard's was winding down.
Nielsen and another Nebraskaland editor, Ken Bouc, hatched the idea for the exhibition as the two were traveling to Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park last year. Ashfall is a cooperative project between the museum and Game and Parks.
Bouc said the commission had nearly 70 framed pieces of Pritchard's work that had been exhibited periodically at the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island and were in storage in Lincoln. Nielsen knew the museum's Cooper Gallery had a six-month opening in its calendar; soon the exhibit was scheduled to display only the so-called "Stuhr Collection."
Farrar began to collect other pieces of Pritchard's work still held at Game and Parks, and contacted his widow, Mary Lou Pritchard, a professor emeritus of biological sciences at UNL. She contributed more artwork, including Mr. Pritchard's childhood and WWII drawings. Eventually, hundreds of artworks were amassed.
Claremont Gale Pritchard, nicknamed Bud, was born in 1910 near Kenesaw, Neb. Growing up near the Platte River and several large wetland areas, Pritchard began drawing birds as a child. He was a self-taught artist, taking no art training other than two correspondence courses. Early works in pencil show an accomplished artist, attentive to detail. During WWII, Pritchard drew on scraps of paper, such as unfolded envelopes and the backs of army forms. Most of the work was of wildlife he saw while posted in North Africa, India and the Philippines, but also scenes of army life.
After the war, he returned to Nebraska and a local game warden recommended him to Game and Parks. Pritchard was hired in 1948 and by 1949 his work began appearing on the cover of Outdoor Nebraska. In the ensuing decades, his work appeared on nearly 50 magazine covers and he illustrated a monthly series, "Notes on Nebraska Fauna," from 1953 until 1973. He also illustrated other articles, technical publications, maps, brochures and made exhibits for the commission.
A "notes" illustration typically took 25 to 30 hours of work, Farrar said. Pritchard used many available references to inform his art -- his own previous works, field sketches, study skins, mounted animals and some photographs. He also sought comment from biologists.
"He was an old-school naturalist," Farrar said. Because high-speed stop-action photography was unavailable until the 1970s, Pritchard's ability to render animals in motion was testimony to his years of field study, imagination and talent, Farrar said.
"It seems unfair to judge an artist outside of his time," Farrar said. "Today's wildlife art is so detailed, almost photographic. The difference is that Bud didn't have those photo references."
As a commercial illustrator, Pritchard's work was constrained by deadlines, the size and shape of publications, the whims of editors and printing requirements. The art often was "enhanced" with white or black paint to outline items so they would print better. Sometimes the work was cut up and repositioned or reused for other purposes.
"I have often wondered what he would have done if he had not had to work within the restraints of a publication," Farrar said. "Commercial art really squeezed him."
Pritchard painted in a tempera style, laying on darker paint first and layering lighter paints over. He used an unknown type of paint, Farrar said, and he appeared to use the same dozen tubes his entire career. Farrar said Pritchard was frugal with his paint, saying it was "no longer made." He was meticulous about his workspace and his brushes.
Farrar said Pritchard's work illustrates a slice of history in magazine art. Hand illustration was at its peak in the 1950s and '60s. When Game and Parks hired its first photographer in 1958, it never again featured Pritchard's art on magazine covers. But his "notes" series continued to be popular with readers and the commission reprinted them for sale.
Pritchard won the 1968-69 federal duck stamp art competition with a black and white wash of hooded mergansers. More than 18 million of the duck stamps were sold nationally. His work also appeared on Nebraska game stamps. He also illustrated books, including two for UNL ornithologist Paul Johnsgard.
Farrar described Pritchard as "a prince of man." Pritchard survived a stroke in 1973 and returned to work but retired soon after in 1974. He died the following year.
"This is the first time anyone has consolidated all these things," Farrar said. "We didn't know so much of it still existed. All this stuff is looking for a home after the exhibition closes. We're kind of afraid of what might happen to it after October."
The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:30-4:30 Sundays and holidays. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children (5-18 years old); children under 4 are free. Family admission (up to two adults with children) is $8. Parking is available next to the museum. More information is available online at www.museum.unl.edu.
The links below are to a black-and-white JPEG image of Pritchard in his studio and a color JPEG image of a painting by Pritchard of wood ducks in flight.
CONTACT: Willo Stuart, Special Projects Coordinator, (402) 472-3779