FRANCIS LEE JAQUES 

 

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Francis Lee Jaques (1887 - 1969)

Francis Lee Jaques (pronounced JAY-kweez), often known as Lee Jaques, was a prolific wildlife artist whose work achieved both scientific and popular acclaim. His pictures combine accuracy of species and habitat with a pleasing sense of design and color.


Jaques was born September 28, 1887 in Geneseo, Illinois. As a boy, he loved duck hunting, particularly black ducks and spent many hours hunting with his father. When Jaques was twelve his family moved to Kansas and turned to farming corn. As a young man Jaques opened a taxidermy shop, but never achieved much financial success. However, his background in agriculture and hunting taught him a great deal about birds and this translated into the stunning realism he was able to capture in his work. 

In 1913, Jaques worked as a coal stoker on the railroad, which fulfilled his desire to work with trains. However, in 1917, before shipping out for the war, Jaques saw an art exhibit in San Francisco and this experience led him to realize alternative ways to express his love of nature by creating art. When Jaques returned from the war he began to paint with oils, studying with Clarence Rosenkranz who was a student of Charles Merritt Chase, an early impressionist. 

At the age of 40, Jaques was hired as a staff museum artist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He spent the next eighteen years at the museum, painting fifty large dioramas and backgrounds for the exhibits. His career as a museum artist grew, and he was commissioned to paint habitat group backdrops for the Peabody Museum at Yale, in New Haven; the Museum of Science in Boston; and the James Ford Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota, among others.

Jaques realistic depiction of wildfowl also garnered him work painting illustrations for Field and Stream. In 1940, he painted his first duck stamp for Ducks Unlimited for which he selected a black duck.

As a staff member of the American Museum of Natural History Jaques traveled widely for research purposes, visiting the Arctic Circle and the South Pacific. These travels gave him the opportunity to sketch and paint many species in their native habitats. 

At age fifty-five, Jaques retired from the American Museum of Natural History and subsequently completed a painting each month for Outdoor Life, as well as taking on freelance work painting museum dioramas. In 1953, he and his wife moved from New York City to Minnesota and he built a miniature railroad on their property. At this point, Jaques painted for pleasure, not necessarily for profit, and he continued to travel selling his work at one man shows. He donated many gratis illustrations for charity and educational purposes as well as authoring a number of books with his wife, who was a solid supporter of his work and assisted with its marketing.

In 1969 Jaques died of a pulmonary embolism at age eighty-one.