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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Offering of the Day: An Exceptional Original Watercolor by American artist Francis Lee Jaques

Francis Lee Jaques (1887-1969)
Flock of Geese
Watercolor and gouache
11 1/4 x 15 1/4 inches
Framed: 17 x 20 1/4 inches
Signed lower right: F L Jaques

During the past two centuries, America has produced some of the finest and most famed natural history painters and artists.  While Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran and Thomas Worthington Whittredge faithfully recorded the magnificence of her newly discovered landscape, America's wildlife was exquisitely depicted by such artists as John James Audubon, Louis Agassiz Fuertes and Francis Lee Jaques. Each took pride in their nation's bounties and enlightened fellow citizens, as well as foreigners, to the beauty of her lands.

The painter and naturalist, Francis Lee Jaques (pronounced "Jay-quees") was a native of Atkin, Minnesota and grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River surrounded by the wildlife he would eventually become famous for depicting.  His father, Ephriam, was a hunting guide, farmer, writer, poet and logger and thus, had a profound influence upon his son, introducing him to the glories of nature.  Jaques's education was somewhat informal, relying upon conversations with his father's hunting friends and clients to gain knowledge rather than attending school.  Indeed, it was during a hunting trip with the editor of Field and Stream magazine that his career path was formed.

The painter's accomplished depiction of animals and birds was based upon his acute knowledge of animal anatomy.  Jaques had inherited a taxidermy shop in repayment of a ten dollar debt. During this time he started painting in earnest and produced a group of watercolor paintings entitled "A Portfolio of Drawings of Nature as it is."  Unable to make a substantial living from taxidermy, Jaques turned to railroading in Northern Minnesota during the "off season", and recorded the scenery and trains as they passed through rural Minnesota.  World War I temporarily halted his painting career, but upon his return his settled in Duluth as a commercial artist with Duluth photoengraving.  There, he meet the artist Clarence C. Rosenkranz, who introduced him to the oil painting technique.

Jaques skills were eventually recognized by the American Natural History Museum in New York, and he was invited to join the institution as a museum artist.  He became a member of the Salmagundi Club whose membership has included the likes of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White and Sir Winston Churchill, and which is devoted to serving the needs of fine artists in New York and around the country. Moreover, in 1940, Jaques was honored by the United States Postal Service and asked to design the Federal Duck Stamp for the U. S. Department of the Interior.  The stamp is of two Black Ducks flying above Aitkin's Rice Lake and over one and a quarter million were sold.  The composition relates very closely to the two oil paintings presently offered.

Francis Lee Jaques produced many outstanding wildlife paintings during his lifetime and illustrated more than seventy books.  These include Dr. Thomas Roberts's Birds of Minnesota, William O. Douglas's My Wilderness and several books by Sigurd F. Olson.  He is also famed with inventing the duorama which was a smaller version of the diorama.  Above all, however,  his paintings reveal an abiding love of nature and an intense understanding of animal behavior and anatomy.

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