Arthur Singer - The Wildlife Art of an American Master
The idea of painting all species of North American birds began with John James Audubon in the early 1800s. Other wildlife artists soon followed, embracing his passion and focus. Arthur B. Singer was among one of those artists who perfected the painting skills and technique required to capture, not only the essence of his subjects, but give his art aesthetic appeal appeal based on scientific observation.
Influenced by Rungius, Fuertes, and Kuhnert, Singer’s fascination with drawing and painting began when he was a young teenager. In this first biography, Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master, sons Paul and Alan describe a career of more than forty years, accompanied by vivid color reproductions of his extensive artwork.
Included in Singer’s biography are several unpublished works not yet seen by his collectors or fans. Some of these images include sketches of American jazz artists, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington, whom he befriended in the late 1930s. In this book are paintings Singer created while traveling the world or preparing additions to his volumes on ornithology.
As a student at the Cooper Union Art School in New York City, Singer experimented with abstractions from nature which fueled his ambition to become a wildlife artist. After graduating from college, his artistic career took a turn in 1944 when he entered the U.S. Army during World War II. His talents were recognized by a general who assigned him to a special unit—the 603rd Camouflage Engineers—whose mission was visual deception against enemy forces. This band of artists were also known as “The Ghost Army” and they created not only camouflage, but visual, sonic, and audio deception to undermine German intelligence.
Once his Army obligation had ended, Singer worked briefly for an advertising agency and then became a full-time illustrator and painter in the mid-1950s. He received the Augustus St. Gaudens Medal in 1962, after his bird paintings appeared in the book Birds of the World which sold more than half a million copies.
Perhaps he is best known for his paintings of state birds which were seen by millions when the U.S. Postal Service issued the State Birds & Flowers stamps in 1982. Alan Singer assisted his father in creating art for this set of commemorative stamps which became one of the largest selling series in U.S. Postal history. Singer’s talent was honored when he was issued the Hal Borland Award from the National Audubon Society in 1985 upon the 200th anniversary of Audubon’s birth.
Since Singer’s death in 1990, his artwork has had several retrospective exhibitions including the New York Zoological Society’s Central Park Zoo Gallery, the Wendell Gilley Museum, the Buffalo Museum of Natural History, Caumsett State Park’s Marshall Field Gallery, The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, among others. Most recently, Singer’s watercolors painted during his army years have appeared in the documentary and book entitled, The Ghost Army of World War II, which has helped generate a new interest in the artwork of the 603rd Camouflage Unit.
Introduction By David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Society of Animal Artists
About the Authors
Paul Singer is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art (1968) with a BFA in graphic design. Interested in nature and the outdoors, he has focused on designs for zoos, museums, and botanic gardens. He has also worked as an interpretive sign designer for the National Park Service, state park systems, and greenways in California, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. His illustrations are included in The Knopf Nature Guide series for Audubon, The Audubon Master Guides to Birding, The Knopf Collector Guides to American Antiques and other publications. In his leisure time, he paints seascapes, studies history, and collects antiques. Paul and his wife, Janet, reside in Brooklyn, NY.
Alan Singer is a graduate of the Cooper Union School of Art with a BFA in Fine Art (1972), and an MFA from Cornell University (1975). For nine years, Alan worked with his father, Arthur, on revisions to both of Singer’s field guides to birds, and helped illustrate the State Bird & Flower Stamps for the Postal Service. Alan illustrated the State Bird & Flower first day covers for Unicover Corp. Alan has also illustrated books which include The Total Book of Houseplants and State Birds. Since 1988, he has been an art educator and professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. A painter, printmaker, and author, he has had 27 solo exhibitions and blogs at The Visual Artworker. Alan and his wife, Anna, reside in Rochester, New York.
RIT University Gallery Exhibition:
"Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master" will be on view: August 7—October 28, 2017.
- Publisher: RIT Press (07/2017)
- ISBN-13: 9781939125392
- Binding: Hardcover with dust jacket
- Pages: 198
- Illustrations: 237, mostly color
- Size: 11 x 11 in.
- Shipping Weight: 3lb
Arthur Singer (b. 1917, d. 1990) was born to a family of artists in New York City and raised in mid-Manhattan. In 1939, he graduated from Cooper Union and worked as a printer in an advertising agency. In 1942, he joined the U. S. Army where he served in Company C of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. Singer emerged in the 1950's as one of the world’s finest illustrators and painters of birds and helped redefine the concept of the bird guide with his 1966 release, The Golden Field Guide to Birds of North America. A new book Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master written by his sons Paul and Alan Singer is published by RIT Press, June 2017. It documents Singer’s life and work, which has been enjoyed by millions in books, magazines, prints and commemorative stamps.
A major exhibition of Arthur Singer's original works is on display in RIT University Gallery from August 7 - October 28, 2017