Arnolds Park, Iowa, birthplace
of Maynard Reece, is in the famous lake district in the northwest
part of the state, near Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake, scene
of the historic Spirit Lake massacre described by Kantor.
It was great country for a boy who had an abiding interest
in wildlife and he took full advantage of it by bunting, fishing,
and just watching birds and animals at every opportunity.
He was born in 1920 and has two
brothers and a sister. He began drawing at an early age and
won his first award in 1932 when he was 12 years old. It was
First Prize at the Iowa State Fair, and his entry was pencil
drawings of wildlife.
After finishing school he was
employed as an artist at Meredith Publishing Company for two
years, and then began work at the Iowa Museum in Des Moines,
where he was staff artist and Assistant Museum Director. Much
of his work was done in the field, collecting specimens and
data for the various state publications on wildlife.
During World War II he took a
leave of absence from the Museum to join the Army Signal Corps.
He was stationed in California, and worked as an artist in
Training Aids, doing paintings and artwork of and for the
Signal Corps. Later he transferred to a photographic outfit
and was sent to Europe with it. He returned to the Museum
It was during this period after
the war that he illustrated the books Waterfowl in Iowa, by
Jack and Mary Musgrove, published by the Iowa Conservation
Commission, and Iowa Fish and Fishing, by Speaker and Harlan.
His winning the duck stamp contest with the design of Buffleheads
Aloft brought him national recognition - not the first he
had received, but adding to a reputation that was growing
at a remarkably rapid rate for a man of his age in the art
In 1951 Mr. Reece resigned from
the Museum after ten interrupted years and began full time
free lancing, staying exclusively in the wildlife field. He
has been a full-time free lance ever since.
It is not hard to find examples
of Mr. Reece's work. It has appeared in many national magazines
such as Life, Sports Illustrated, The Saturday Evening Post,
Sports Afield, Outdoor Life, Better Homes and Gardens, and
Newspapers, including the Des
Moines Sunday Register and the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune,
have used his artwork; as have several calendar companies:
Osborne-Kemper-Thomas, Inc., the Thomas D. Murphy Company,
the U. 0. Colson Company, and Shaw-Barton, Inc. He has done
greeting cards for Hallmark and paintings for many national
manufacturers of sporting goods. Other paintings have been
shown in leading museums and galleries both in this country
and in Canada.
To the general public, he is
probably best known and most admired for the many paintings
he has done for the National Wildlife Federation, an organization
whose stamps and other products are widely distributed to
nature lovers everywhere.
Mr. Reece's fish paintings have
won awards twice in the New York Art Directors Club Exhibitions.
The first occasion was in the 35th Annual National Exhibition
for his freshwater fish series for Life magazine; the second
was in the 41st Annual Exhibition for his brown trout which
had appeared in The Saturday Evening Post.
In 1968 Mr. Reece became a member
artist of the Grand Central Galleries of New York City, where
his work may be seen and purchased. His recent paintings,
(nearly all in oil, but with an occasional watercolor), have
been mainly of waterfowl and upland game birds.
One of Mr. Reece's more recent
projects has been a book entitled Fish and Fishing, written
and illustrated by him, and published by Better Homes and
Gardens. He traveled over 50,000 miles through the United
States and Canada to collect fish and material for it.
His family accompanied him on
many of the journeys he made while he was working on it, and
all four of them felt that they deserved a vacation after
completion of such a long and arduous undertaking. They took
their holiday - they went fishing.
Mr. Reece is a member of the
board of the Outdoor Writers Association, Izaak Walton League
of America, National Audubon Society, American Ornithologists
Union, National Wildlife Federation, and many other conservation
Mr. Reece has broken his own
outstanding record in the annals of the duck stamp competition
by winning the contest a fifth time. This is an extraordinary
achievement; and the public, whether or not it knows of all
his other work, stands in awe. With the respect, comes curiosity
as to what makes this unusual man tick.
There is little in a straight
biography to give us a clue. We know that he is the son of
a Quaker minister, and are not surprised that he leads a calm
life, filled with hard work and quiet pleasures. We know that
he has, in common with almost all wildlife artists, a background
of country living which gives him his special feeling for
This rapport with nature is a
delicate web of impressions and philosophy which needs constant
renewal. In a city, it weakens; yet an artist must also be
a businessman, and there is a family to consider. One can't
be a Thoreau these days. Mr. Reece has neatly resolved the
dilemma by dividing their life in two: the summers are spent
on 31 wooded acres beside a small lake in northern Minnesota,
and the winters in a beautiful home in Des Moines. At various
times of year there are longer trips; but in general, home
is the Midwest which is, in Mr. Reece's words, never very
far from anywhere.
One reaches the Minnesota cabin
by negotiating 61/2 miles of country road, one of those described
in official terms as "gravel." We suspect that this
is the kind of backwoods track that is distinguishable in
certain seasons from the brooks only by the fact that the
roads have no fish in them. This is where Mr. Reece studies,
sketches, gathers material, and enjoys a life of simplicity.
His studies over the years have
included biology, botany, taxidermy, anatomy of wildlife and
related natural sciences. His reputation for accuracy is assured,
even among sportsmen who are an intensely observant breed
The home in Des Moines, though
"city," is on a lot large enough to accommodate
a number of trees, squirrels, and birds around the house.
The studio is on the north side, with 250 square feet of window;
the living quarters are on the second level with t balcony
overlooking the studio. There is one wall two stories high,
covered with fabric and hung with Maynard Reece paintings.
Many of these have been published with only publication rights
being sold, and the actual painting remaining in the family
Having long since realized his
early ambition to become a successful artist, Mr. Reece has
a new goal. Now turning down far more assignments than he
accepts, he is seeking to attain a still higher quality in
his work. His aim is to improve it constantly, with the hope
of making a lasting contribution to art and to society. Given
his ability, capacity for work, and perfectionism, this is
not an impossible mission.