Charley Harper as Illustrator: the 1960s, part II
After the Golden Book of Biology, Charley didn’t have a hard time getting work as a children’s nature illustrator. During the 1960s he did several more projects for the Golden Press, a series of commissions for Field Enterprises and a public piece for the GSA.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Charley’s work is so enduring is how he treated his subject. As he stated in the mid-1970s: “I am careful to avoid anthropomorphism, having learned once when I illustrated “Bambi” that I am unalterably opposed to implying that animals act from the same motives and think the same thoughts as humans.” Compare the above to, e.g., Disney’s famous representation of Bambi and Charley’s respect for nature becomes rather obvious.
Around the time of his Bambi work Charley began freelancing for Field Enterprises, who published both theChildcraft Library and the World Book Encyclopedia. His illustrations first appeared in the 1964 edition ofChildcraft2 and the 1966 edition of World Book, and were seen by an entire generation of school children.
Also in 1964 Charley completed a mural in the lobby of the new Cincinnati Federal Building.3 The mural, actuallytwo murals, each 18′ × 10.5′, was titled American Wildlife and included more than 100 animals done entirely in ceramic tile and the occasional plastic strip. Mosaic turned out to be a perfect medium for Charley’s Minimal Realism, and the result is unmistakable.