Beguiled by the Wild: The Art of Charley Harper

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Cost: Exhibit included in general museum admission. VLM members free, non-members $17 adults, $13 children (ages 3-12).

The whimsical and delightfully colorful works by master illustrator and artist Charley Harper (1922-2007) are returning to the Virginia Living Museum March 15 - April 27, 2014. 

Harper’s life-long love of nature inspired his work and his creativity takes viewers on an artistic and environmental journey shared by people of all ages.

Harper was best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters an book illustrations.  He called his style "minimal realism," capturing the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements. Using graphic shapes and bold colors, Harper distilled and simplified complex elements.

Ladybug Lovers

This exhibit also includes interactive art activities that educate visitors in Harper's style (tangrams, large puzzles, alphabet art table and rubbing stations). Budding artists can sketch a natural science item from the museum’s collections.

Scan a QR code with your smart phone and listen to podcasts (mp3) of puns about artwork in the exhibit and enjoy an interactive experience of both sight and sound!

The exhibit debuted at the Virginia Living Museum in 2010 and has been traveling the country to art and science museums. The exhibit is centered around the personal collection of Executive Director of the Virginia Living Museum, Page Hayhurst and her family.

The exhibit also contains 60 prints from Harper's Birds at Feeding Stations that first appeared in the Ford Times Magazine in the 1950s. These prints are exhibited courtesy of the Charley Harper estate.

Harper's nature-oriented artwork is often contrasted with the realism of John James Audubon and the simplicity found in Inuit Art. Harper used many media in his artwork, though he is best known for his serigraph prints. Best known for the children's book “The Golden Book of Biology,” Harper was an extraordinarily prolific graphic designer contributing his unique, geometric style to a wide range of publications. This exhibit is sure to delight and entertain the art lover an animal lover alike!

Many of Harper’s works incorporated visual puns and were accompanied by word puns. Often the puns were commentary on the peculiar habits of a species or the struggles in nature. Others were just fun repartee about the natural subject at hand be it fish, or fowl.  Listen to the audio files below:

Big Rac Attack

Bittern Suite

Blue Jay Bathing


Dam Diligent

Devotion in the Ocean


Fearless Feathers


Hares Breadth


Ladybug Lovers

Love on a Limb

Manatee in the Mangrove

Pelican Pantry


Piscine Queues

Savoring Sycamore






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  • Zaphod

    Didn't Charley Harper die when he "fell" in front of a subway train in Europe?

    April 7

    • Zaphod

      Your loss. One of the funniest on TV, IMHO.

      April 8

    • Aiden

      I'll get caught up at some point.

      April 8

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