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Natural History Art, Birds, Bald Eagle, John Ruthven, Large Aquatint, 1976

$900

John A. Ruthven (b. 1924) (after)
Norma Gloria Morgan (b. 1928) (engraver)
Andersen-Lamb (printed and hand-colored)
American Bald Eagle, Haliaetus leucocephalus
Wildlife Internationale, Georgetown, Ohio, 1976
Hand-colored aquatint
Signed in pencil lower right: John A. Ruthven
Edition numbered in pencil in title block lower left: 497/776
Signed in pencil by individual colorist, lower edge
27.25 x 19.5 inches, image plate mark
39.75 x 26 inches, overall
$900

A large print of an American bald eagle in flight, with wings overhead, claws curled, tail feathers spread, making a striking silhouette against the page. This aquatint was produced after a watercolor by ornithological artist John Ruthven to commemorate the United States Bicentennial in 1976. Like many of Ruthven’s bird paintings, it presents a species that has either disappeared or been threatened with extinction by human activity. Thanks to conservation efforts, the bald eagle population has made a dramatic recovery over the past 30 years, and the bird was removed from the Endangered Species Act list of protected species in 2007.

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Description

The large and impressive bald eagle is a powerful raptor and early in United States history became a national symbol. The population of these birds declined precipitously due to the pesticide DDT, which weakened the eagles’ egg shells and caused them to break before the eggs could hatch. With the banning of DDT in 1972 and passage of the Endangered Species Act the following year, the bald eagle population has made significant gains, and numbers have increased from over 5,000 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states to about 70,000 bald eagles in North America, Canada, and Alaska. However, illegal hunting, power line electrocution, and habitat loss still threaten the eagle today.

John A. Ruthven is a wildlife artist based in his native Ohio, as well as a naturalist, author and lecturer. A major retrospective exhibition of his work at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History was titled “John A. Ruthven — In the Audubon Tradition,” an apt characterization since like John James Audubon, his paintings are the result of careful study of the bird in the field as well as from preserved bird skins. In addition, they are rendered in meticulous accurate detail, including plants from their natural habitat as part of the composition. Indeed, the offered aquatint based on Ruthven’s painting was printed on the same type of paper Audubon used for his Elephant Folio. Ruthven selected the colorists for the aquatints, who provided the additional hand coloring to match his original paintings; they each respectively signed the prints in pencil along the bottom edge.

Ruthven was drafted into the Navy right after high school and served two years during World War II. He was interested in art and was essentially self-taught, also doing some drawing and cartooning for the Navy. After his discharge he opened a commercial art studio in Cincinnati in 1946. In 1960 Ruthven won the Federal Duck Stamp competition, a major prize for a bird artist, which he characterizes as a defining moment for his career, because he was immediately approached by Abercrombie & Fitch to sell his work nationwide. From that point on he was able to devote himself to wildlife art full time. He has also produced works on other natural history subjects, such as mushrooms and other animals. He has traveled around the world on commission to paint wildlife. Ruthven’s works have been exhibited nationally and internationally at both art and natural history museums, including the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York, and the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in Oradell, New Jersey, and are also in numerous public and corporate collections. In 2004, Ruthven was awarded the National of Medals of Arts in a ceremony at the White House.

Norma Gloria Morgan is an engraver and painter known for her printmaking and Expressionist imagery. An African-American artist, she studied at the Arts Student League with Hans Hofmann, and with the renowned printmaker Stanley W. Hayter. Her works are in the collections of major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She has won numerous awards for her work.

Inscriptions in Title Block: Original Watercolour by John A Ruthven. 497/776. Engraved by Norma Morgan. Printed by Andersen-Lamb (Hand-coloured), New York. Published by Wildlife Internationale, Georgetown, Ohio, U.S.A. © 1976.

Condition: Generally fine overall with only minor handling. Signed by Ruthven in pencil.  Also signed by the colorist, bottom left edge.

References:

“Bald Eagle.” Defenders of Wildlife. 2018. https://defenders.org/bald-eagle/basic-facts (4 September 2018).

“CET Express – John Ruthven.” Cincinnati Public Media. 13 July 2006. http://www.cetconnect.org/genericPlayer.asp?id=417 (5 September 2008).

Hollister, Dean, Amy I. Furman, Mary Bruccoli and Tamara Adams, eds. Who’s Who in American Art. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1989. p. 746.

“John A. Ruthven — The 20th Century Audubon.” Ruthven.com. http://ruthven.com/about-me/ (30 August 2018).

“Norma Gloria Morgan.” AskArt.com. 2000-2008. http://www.askart.com/AskART/artists/search/ArtistKeywords.aspx?artist=106989 (8 September 2008).