Environmentalism through art and whimsy

Beloved artist Charley Harper (1922-2007) saw the natural world around him with empathy and whimsy. He revealed the natural world through geometric reduction and imagined the similarities between human and wild animal behaviors in witty prose. Each painting had an accompanying short story that provided insight into the whimsy with which he viewed the natural world – and the environmental issues facing it.

The exhibition is more than an art gallery – it challenges us to confront alarming issues threatening the Earth and its inhabitants, including global warming, water pollution and habitat destruction. He believed humor made it easier to encourage changes in our attitudes toward environmental concerns. His accompanying text offers a cheeky quip about the realities of the wild or a stark message for future – now current – generations facing serious environmental issues.

Explore 30 of Harper’s iconic works from the collections of Cincinnati Museum Center and select donors in Inspired by Nature: The Art and Activism of Charley Harper.

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Charley Harper – 2020 John A. Ruthven Medal of Distinction recipient

Charley Harper is the 2020 recipient of the John A. Ruthven Medal of Distinction. The award is presented to those personally contributing to the fields of natural history and science and to CMC’s collection and research programs. Part of the criteria for the award is that its recipients further the preservation, research and advocacy of natural history in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Born and raised on a farm in West Virginia, Harper (1922 – 2007) developed a love of animals early in life. He was a graduate of the Cincinnati Art Academy in 1947, where he also taught for a number of years.

“Charley and Edie were great friends of mine from our days at the Art Academy following World War II forward,” said fellow artist John A. Ruthven. “While our artistic styles were different, we blended beautifully together, both captivated by nature. I liked to count the feathers while Charley liked to count the wings.”

Like the beauty of nature, Harper’s artwork is all around us – on buildings, mugs, tote bags, postcards and countless home and office walls – and his message is as important as ever today.

Brett Harper on the Art and Activism of Charley Harper

Museum Admission

Includes Cincinnati History Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science and The Children's Museum

Adult: $22.50
Senior: $15.50
Child: $15.50
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