The Warren County Historical Society is delighted to open The Magical World of Charley Harper, an art exhibition held at Harmon Museum. A free opening reception will be held on September 7th from 6:30-8:30pm and the exhibition will remain up until the 20th of October, viewable during the museum's normal business hours.
Charles Burton Harper was born in 1922 on a farm in central West Virginia. From an early age, he preferred sketching nature to doing his chores. Seeking a broad art education, Charley came to the Art Academy of Cincinnati for the fall term of 1940. There, on the first day of class, he met Edie McKee, graduate of Cincinnati's Wyoming High School. But Charley was drafted in 1942 to fight in World War II against Germany. A recon scout for the Army, he illustrated what he saw. At the war's end, he returned to America and spent a year at the Art Students League in New York. He then finished his degree at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and married Edie. It was then that the newlyweds embarked on a six-month honeymoon, painting their way across the United States and back.
Although Charley debated whether to be a realist or an abstract artist, he wished to discover his own creative voice. That process was completed by 1955 when he printed a series of birds that had appeared in Ford Times magazine.
The evolution of Charley's style can be seen in his images of the Northern Cardinal selected for this exhibit. Charley returned to the Cardinal many times in his career because its body allowed him to demonstrate his self-dubbed "minimal realism." As Charley liked to say, he stripped away all extraneous details, and "counted the wings, not the feathers." In subsequent Cardinal images, Charley portrayed the popular backyard bird from different perspectives. In later years, he incorporated the Cardinal within entire ecosystems in his most complex designs.
After 50 years working in his studio in a forest in the Cincinnati suburb of Finneytown, Charley had produced thousands of images. He had also written and illustrated books, illustrated children's books for Golden Press, created public tile murals, seen his art adapted by world renowned designers for clothing, stationery and dishware, and enjoyed an international reputation for his unique approach to the world. It was Charley Harper's magical world. Since his passing in 2007, that world has continued to bring smiles to ever more faces.
Nathaniel Grauwelman as well as various staff and volunteers of WCHS