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   from the issue of February 2, 2006

Pritchard retrospective opens Feb. 4


A new exhibition at the University of Nebraska State Museum showcases the work of a Nebraska artist and tells the story of a once thriving job niche that is now nearly extinct.

COOPER EXHIBITION - Joel Nielsen, exhibits technician for the University of Nebraska State Museum, adjusts a C.G. Pritchard painting of a...
 COOPER EXHIBITION - Joel Nielsen, exhibits technician for the University of Nebraska State Museum, adjusts a C.G. Pritchard painting of a copperhead snake. A new exhibit featuring Pritchard's work opens Feb. 4 in Morrill Hall's Cooper Gallery. Pictured below is an envelope on which Pritchard drew during his World War II service in North Africa. Courtesy Photo/Doug Smith.

Opening Feb. 4 in the museum's Cooper Gallery, "C.G. Pritchard: A Retrospective," displays hundreds of drawings and paintings by a prolific artist who worked as a commercial illustrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for more than 25 years. Prichard's work was seen in the commission's NEBRASKAland Magazine, and its precursor, Outdoor Nebraska, from 1949 to 1974. Art created for the magazine and other publications, works made during Pritchard's World War II service, and art commissioned for scholarly works comprise the exhibition.

Joel Nielsen, exhibits technician for the museum, and Jon Farrar, senior editor for NEBRASKAland magazine, organized the exhibition, which runs through Oct. 29. Farrar wrote the exhibition notes. He worked with Pritchard for about four years-- as Farrar's career was beginning, Pritchard's was winding up.

Nielsen and another NEBRASKAland editor, Ken Bouc, hatched the exhibition idea as they traveled to Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park last year.

Bouc said the commission had nearly 70 framed pieces of Pritchard's work that had been exhibited periodically at the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island. The works were in storage in Lincoln.

Nielsen knew the museum's Cooper Gallery had a six-month opening in its calendar, and the exhibit was penciled in, originally scheduled to display only the so-called "Stuhr Collection."

However, Farrar began to collect other pieces of Pritchard's work still held at Game and Parks, and contacted his widow, Mary Lou Pritchard, a professor emeritus of biological sciences at UNL. She contributed more artwork, including Mr. Pritchard's childhood and WWII drawings. Eventually, hundreds of artworks were amassed.

Claremont Gale Pritchard, nicknamed Bud, was born in 1910 near Kenesaw. Growing up near the Platte River and several large wetland areas, Pritchard began drawing birds as a child. He was a self-taught artist, taking no art training other than two correspondence courses. Early works in pencil show an accomplished artist, attentive to detail. During WWII, Pritchard drew on scraps of paper, such as unfolded envelopes and the backs of army forms. Most of the work was of wildlife, such as albatross he saw while posted in North Africa, India and the Philippines, but also scenes of military life.

After the war, he returned to Nebraska and a local game warden recommended him to Game and Parks. Pritchard was hired in 1948 and by 1949 his work began appearing on the cover of Outdoor Nebraska. In the ensuing decades, his work appeared on nearly 50 magazine covers and he illustrated a monthly series "Notes on Nebraska Fauna" from 1953 until 1973. He also illustrated other articles, technical publications, maps, brochures and made exhibits for the commission.



A "notes" illustration typically took 25 to 30 hours of work, Farrar said. Pritchard used many available references to inform his art - his own previous works, field sketches, study skins, mounted animals and some photographs. He also sought comment from biologists.

"He was an old-school naturalist," Farrar said. Because high-speed stop-action photography was unavailable until the 1970s, Pritchard's ability to render animals in motion was testimony to his years of field study, imagination and talent, Farrar said.

"It seems unfair to judge an artist outside of his time," Farrar said. "Today's wildlife art is so detailed, almost photographic. The difference is that Bud didn't have those photo references."

As a commercial illustrator, Pritchard's work was constrained by deadlines, the size and shape of publications, the whims of editors and printing requirements, Farrar said.

"I have often wondered what he would have done if he had not had to work within the restraints of a publication," Farrar said. "Commercial art really squeezed him."

Pritchard won the 1968-69 federal duck stamp art competition with a black and white wash of hooded mergansers. More than 18 million of the duck stamps were sold nationally. His work also appeared on Nebraska game stamps. He also illustrated books, including two for UNL ornithologist Paul Johnsgard.

Farrar described Pritchard as "a prince of man." Pritchard survived a stroke in 1973 and returned to work but retired soon after in 1974. He died the following year.

"This is the first time anyone has consolidated all these things," Farrar said. "We didn't know so much of it still existed. All this stuff is looking for a home after the exhibition closes. We're kind of afraid of what might happen to it after October."

The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:30-4:30 Sundays and holidays. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children (5-18 years old); children under 4 are free. Family admission (up to two adults with children) is $8. Parking is available next to the museum. More information is available online at



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