About the artist Roger Peterson

posted by Karen Hood
Friday, June 18, 2010

Roger Tory Peterson

Roger Tory Peterson was a world renowned ornithologist, naturalist, author, lecturer and artist. It was in the last category, however, that he placed himself. He was an artist first, foremost and always. His numerous awards are commensurate with his countless contributions to the fields of conservation, natural history and ornithology. His system of field identification made bird watching a world-wide activity. Peterson’s bird paintings, based on a lifetime of observation and study, are international standards.

Born in New York state where the woods, fields and river edges were filled with birds, young Peterson observed and sketched. As a boy he also read about the giants of nature painting: Durer, Lear, Audubon and Fuertes. Peterson attended the Art Students League in New York and the National Academy of Design. Following college, he taught both art and science in Massachusetts. It was during his time as a teacher that Peterson developed his unique system for identifying birds in the field. In 1934, his first Field Guide to the Birds was published.

In the years that followed the publication of his first field guide, Peterson traveled the world to paint, write, lecture and to observe and record obscure and exotic species of birds. He was a member of the administrative staff of the National Audubon Society in charge of educational activities and art editor of their magazine. He was art director for the National Wildlife Federation for more than 30 years. He made films in America, Europe, Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica and the Arctic.

Peterson’s honors have been legion, breaching his diverse fields of expertise: conservation, education, science, literature, natural history, ornithology and public service. Peterson’s art is in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s permanent collection and was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution. It reflects a lifetime of artistic discipline, observation and intellectual curiosity.

A journalist named Robert Lynd once wrote that “In order to see birds, it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” In a noisy world, obsessed with speed, Peterson reminded us that in our quest to press onward, sometimes it is just as important to step back. Surrounded as we are by the wonders of technology, he showed us the joy to be found in the phenomena of nature.

For all Roger Peterson art works collectors – you can purchase at our online store

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