Francis Lee Jaques1887 - 1969
Born: September 28, 1887, Geneseo, Illinois
Died: July 24, 1969
Growing up in Kansas, Francis Lee Jaques witnessed many migrations of ducks and geese. He developed an early interest in the beauty of nature and wildlife. Jaques accompanied his father on hunting trips and often drew the birds that his father shot. These early drawings reveal close attention to colors and feathers but also the surrounding environment. As a teenager, he painted watercolors of birds in their natural environment and illustrated some of his father's Field and Stream articles. Without considering an art career, he worked as a taxidermist, lumberjack, electrician, and railroad fireman. The railroad job enabled him to travel throughout America and introduced him to beautiful landscapes. In 1917, Jaques enlisted in the Army and was sent to San Francisco for artillery training. While in San Francisco, he visited the California Academy of Sciences and decided to pursue a career as a museum artist. In 1924, at the age of 37, Jaques sent two paintings as an application to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He was hired, sight unseen. For eighteen years, Jaques painted large diorama backgrounds for the mammal and bird halls of the museum. He traveled with many museum expeditions in order to sketch, paint, and research landscapes for dioramas. Jaques was one of the first duck stamp artists in 1940. He illustrated wildlife and nature for over forty books as well as many magazine covers, including Outdoor Life and The Saturday Evening Post.
Largely self-taught, Jaques did not promote himself or his work and sold his paintings for only a few hundred dollars a piece. For this reason, he remains relatively unknown. The National Museum of Wildlife Art's Early Morning Whitetail depicts an alert whitetail buck standing in the snow in early morning. Jaques accurately depicts the whitetail and its natural surroundings. The luminous snow streaked by long, blue shadows reveals Jaques's skilled use of light and color as well as his clever sense of design, concentrating on pattern and composition.