MEDIA CONTACT: Cody Hefner (513) 608-5777,

Cincinnati Museum Center publishes biography of legendary artist John A. Ruthven

John A. Ruthven: An American Treasure on sale now

CINCINNATI – “One life is not enough to do it all. I’ll keep painting as long as birds fly and I can lift a brush.” – John A. Ruthven.

John A. Ruthven has lived a life of a thousand tales. Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is helping to share them in a new biography published by the museum, written by noted ornithologists Dr. Jerome Jackson and Dr. Bette Jackson, edited by Anita Buck. John A. Ruthven: An American Treasure is available for purchase now at CMC and the National Exemplar.

Ruthven has a long history with CMC, dating back over 80 years when he donated his first specimen at just 10 years old. Since then, he has helped bring thousands of specimens into CMC’s collections, building a rich and robust natural catalog by which scientists and historians learn more about our region and the natural and wild spaces around the globe. He also built a career as the nation’s preeminent wildlife artist – a 20th-century Audubon.

“John is a wonderful artist, prolific and innovative, and a great natural historian,” said DeVere Burt, emeritus director of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and longtime friend of Ruthven. “He’s an explorer, a foot-slogging explorer. He loves wild places, the rare and unusual. He likes looking for endangered and rare species.”

John A. Ruthven: An American Treasure is a beautiful hardbound, 180-page coffee table book that captures the character of a man known for his unfailing enthusiasm, generosity and gracious good humor. It also includes full color reproductions of Ruthven’s artwork, showcasing his extraordinary ability to depict the natural world in stunning detail. Readers will be charmed by Ruthven’s stories of life growing up in the woods and wild spaces outside Cincinnati, his service with the Navy during World War II and wildlife expeditions to the Philippines, Iceland, Africa and more.

“I’m so pleased with the way the book captures the richness and the integrity of the artwork,” said Ruthven upon seeing the finished biography. “The true beauty of the book, though, are those moments I didn’t paint; the family photos, photos from the field or in the studio that really illustrate the story behind the brushstrokes.”

The book is dedicated to all who are inspired to create, teach and explore. It is one way CMC is celebrating Ruthven’s legacy and the 200th anniversary of the Museum of Natural History & Science. The Western Museum Society, the predecessor to CMC, was founded in 1818 and in 1819 hired as its first employee one of Ruthven’s greatest inspirations – a not-yet-famous John James Audubon. Audubon’s influence on Ruthven is evident in his artwork and his love of nature. Just as Ruthven carries forward the legacies of naturalists like Audubon who came before him, so, too, will a new generation be inspired to carry Ruthven’s legacy forward.

One way CMC is helping to carry that legacy forward is with the John A. Ruthven Medal of Distinction. Ruthven was the recipient of the inaugural award in 2019 for his lifetime of exploration, preservation and advocacy. The award will be given out in future years to those personally contributing to the preservation, research and advocacy of natural history and science and CMC’s collection and research programs.

“We are grateful to John for his intrepid spirit of adventure, his creative genius and his infectious love of nature and science,” says Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “He inspires generations forward to honor the natural world, to be curious learners and to share joy.”

The National Exemplar hosted a book launch event on February 24 that welcomed an eager audience of over 60 guests. As a Mariemont resident, Ruthven is an icon in the community and the National Exemplar, a restaurant he visits weekly, served as the perfect venue for the book launch.

John A. Ruthven: An American Treasure is available to purchase at Cincinnati Museum Center and the National Exemplar for $49.95. All proceeds from the book sales support the care of CMC’s science collections and honors Ruthven’s legacy. Please call (513) 287-7000 for information about purchasing the book.

John A. Ruthven: An American Treasure was written by Dr. Jerome Jackson, professor emeritus of Ecological Sciences and former Whitaker Eminent Scholar in Science at Florida Gulf Coast University, and Dr. Bette Jackson, professor and former chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. It was edited by Anita Buck, former writer and editor for the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History. The book was designed and published for CMC by Orange Frazer Press in Wilmington, Ohio.


About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of a select few museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit