Book Review: Bob Hines- National Wildlife Artist

Bob Hines: National Wildlife Artist  by John D. Juriga, M.D.

Reviewed by Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D. Director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University

Picture a boy introduced to the wonders of the natural world through the eyes of his Mother. The reward of lessening her grief through his drawings and her unconditional approval of his efforts shaped the remarkable achievement of Bob Hines as a national wildlife artist.  He saw the world through a different eye than most people, and gave form to his vision with spare clear lines.  John Juriga’s insightful biography follows the struggles of Bob Hines on his path from want and frustration to the accolades of a Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Interior in 1971.

With skilled use of dialogue and a historian’s eye for the backdrop of events, Juriga shows the evolution of attitudes towards wildlife and toward professional writers and artists over fifty years. Just as Bob Hines’ drawings make the subject leap off the page, Juriga’s sketches of Bob Hines’ adventures capture his wit, his bold confidence, and his emotional pain.  Bob Hines’ personal experience of the wilderness and intense study of creatures through dissection and taxidermy enriched his talent. We see him as a young man at the height of the Great Depression leaving a factory job to “study art” and to preserve his health.  He claimed his own niche as an educational illustrator by striding into the office of the Ohio Conservation Commissioner Don Waters with a sheaf of his drawings under his arm.  He walked out with his first job as a wildlife artist.  Such boldness serves as an inspiration in these days of entitlements and expectations of welfare.

Bob Hines collaborations with the greats of the conservation movement give the story of his life the drama of participation in events that shook the world.  Throughout the narrative, Juriga gives us little snippets of the wry wit and humor that endeared Bob Hines to his friends and associates.  We can visualize his terror at sharing camp quarters with foraging bears on an expedition to Alaska or encountering alligators on a night expedition in the Okefenokee Swamp.  We can feel the intensity of his association with Rachel Carson from the description of Bob Hines carrying her out of a freezing tide pool where she had returned the day’s specimens after he finished drawing them.  We feel his frustration and frailty in his older years at not winning the Duck Stamp competition he built up and ran for so many years as its administrator. The biography leaves us feeling we know him around the fire of a fish camp telling stories of his adventures.

Throughout the tale, runs the thread of struggle for financial security and remuneration.  Under that theme, his growing success as an artist does not enhance his feeling of worth and success as a father and husband.  Juriga leaves the biography of Bob Hines’ personal adult life to short poignant vignettes, eloquent in what they omit.  The makings of a hefty soap opera remain behind the veil of discretion.

Juriga describes how Bob Hines gave his signed paintings for gifts, or for charities in his later years.  One such gift, a signed print of his painting of the Bald Eagle, came into the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles football team, and Bob received tickets to the game for a gift in return.  “During the half-time show of that particular game between the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, Bob’s observant eye spied a peregrine falcon pursuing pigeons above the stadium. Hines recalled, “Nobody else was looking at it. [The falcon] was flying around in a circle, and nobody was looking. I looked [around] to see, and they were not watching it. There’s life and death going right above their heads, and they never saw it. To me it’s amazing!” (Quoted from Chapter 9)  Hines had a different focus on the world.  During the autumn of 1971, Interior Secretary Rogers C. B. Morton presented Hines the Distinguished Service Award.  The citation included this statement: “He paints wildlife in the act of being alive.”  This biography puts words behind the drawings and brings the artist to life.

The book is available from Beaver’s Pond Press or call : 1-800-901-3480

2012 is the centennial year for Bob Hines.  The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio opened its Bob Hines Centennial Exhibit which will remain on display until August 14, 2012.