Richard E. Bishop1887 - 1975
Engineer, Printmaker, Painter
Born: 1887, Syracuse, New York
Died: 1975, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
As a child, Richard Bishop's father taught him how to hunt for waterfowl and he remained an avid sportsman throughout his life. After graduating from Syracuse High School in 1905, he attended Cornell University where he excelled at technical drafting. He moved to Milwaukee and worked as an electrical engineer for Cutler-Hammer Manufacturing after earning his masters degree in engineering. When World War I broke out, Bishop was commissioned as a Captain and assigned to the Army Chemical Warfare Unit at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. In 1919, he was discharged from the military and went to work for his father-in-law's Philadelphia manufacturing plant.
One day at work, Bishop took a copper plate that was to be melted down and etched a portrait into it using the needle from a phonograph. This was the beginning of his artistic career. He began to study etching and drypoint printing processes extensively and built his own printing press. In 1924, Bishop won the Charles M. Lea prize from the Philadelphia Print Club for an etching of Canadian geese. Early in his artistic career, he was influenced by the work of Frank Benson but had developed his own unique style by the 1930s. In 1933, the artist retired from manufacturing to dedicate himself to printmaking and painting full-time.
In 1936, Bishop submitted a design for the third Federal Duck Stamp and published his first book, Bishop's Birds. During World War II, he temporarily returned to his engineering career and served as Deputy Director of the War Production Board in Philadelphia. After the his service ended, Bishop began producing oil paintings for the calendar company Brown and Bigelow, and, for the next twenty-five years, continued to provide them with six images per year for their calendars. He suffered health complications in later years, losing a leg to diabetes, and passed away in 1975.
Although Bishop sketched very little in the field, he traveled throughout North America and to the Scottish moors to study, record, and film birds with both still and slow motion cameras. He produced images of many types of birds, but his specialty was waterfowl. Throughout his life, he handled all aspects of the printing process, personally inking the plates and pulling the prints. While Bishop's prints are subtle and elegant, his oil paintings are brightly colored for advertising purposes. He briefly studied painting techniques with Aldro Hibbard at the Rockport School and John Folinsbee at the New Hope School, but he had a unique method of arranging compositions. Bishop would project a landscape photograph on the wall and then place cut-outs of ducks and geese (also from photographs) until the arrangement satisfied him. Then he would paint the scene.
(Source: Davis, Tom. Forward to Bishop's Waterfowl: A Collection of Etching and Oil Painting Reproductions by Richard E. Bishop. By Earl Prestrud and Russ Williams. Camden, South Carolina: LiveOak Press, 1994.)