by John D. Juriga
Bob Hines was the former staff artist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the only person in the history of that organization to hold the title of National Wildlife Artist. Though lacking formal art training, Hines became the vehicle through which millions of citizens learned about their natural history. The American Museum of Fly Fishing was pleased to exhibit selected pieces of Hines’s artwork and artifacts related to fish and angling in their Leigh H. Perkins Gallery from June 27, 2015 until December 31, 2015.
“Now a lot of people would say drawing a fish is easy. Well, it is if you know what you are drawing. From my way of looking at it, a fish has its own set of muscles and its own way of using them. They use their fins differently each time they want to do something—aggressive, recessive, flying or whatever. You have to show these things if you want to do a good job.” – Bob Hines
Bob Hines Timeline
1912:Robert Warren Hines is born in Columbus, Ohio, the second son of George and Mabel Nunemacher Hines.
1916:Mabel Hines gives birth to a daughter who lives but one day. Four year old Bob begins drawing pictures to comfort his mother as she grieves over the loss of her newborn.
1921: The Hines family moves to Fremont, Ohio. It is here in the northwestern corner of the state that Bob comes of age, hunting, fishing, and camping along the Sandusky River.
1925: Mabel Hines dies on Christmas Eve. Bob channels his grief by caring for a backyard menagerie of animals. He also joins the local Boy Scout troop, which acquaints him with the richness of Ohio’s natural beauty. (Later in his career, Hines repays his indebtedness to the Boy Scouts by illustrating the merit badge handbook on fishing.)
1928: At sixteen years of age, Hines graduates from Fremont Ross High School. His senior entry in the yearbook includes the telling phrase, “The mind of a sage and the soul of a boy.”
1929: Hines earns his Eagle Scout with Silver Palm status. He teaches himself taxidermy, which later gives him insight into the anatomy and motion of his future animal subjects.
1939: A health crisis forces Hines to reevaluate his priorities. During the darkness of the Great Depression, he decides to return to drawing as a means of educating the public about Ohio’s wildlife. The state conservation commissioner hires Hines as staff artist for the Ohio Division of Conservation and Natural Resources at a salary of $2,200 per year. When Hines learns that his new responsibilities will include painting with oils, he consults his former high school art teacher. After a four day refresher course, he learns enough about oil painting to serve him the remainder of his professional art career.
1944: A chance meeting with Frank Dufresne, former Chief of the Alaska Game Commission, leads to Hines’s debut as an illustrator of books. Never having visited Alaska, Hines fervently researches the assignment. He labors two months on the watercolor of a leaping grayling until the final design meets his satisfaction.
1946: USFWS Director Albert Day informs Hines that his redhead duck design will appear on the 1946 Federal Duck Stamp. Over two million copies of the stamp are sold, a reflection of the number of servicemen returning to civilian life after World War II. Later this year is the release of Frank Dufresne’s Alaska’s Animals and Fishes with Hines’s illustrations. One reviewer comments on Hines’s “genuine originality and unerring color sense.”
1947: Hines uses the proceeds from Alaska’s Animals and Fishes to join an Alaska trek with members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Frank Dufresne is one of the trip leaders. The Columbus Dispatch sponsors Hines. He writes a series of articles for the newspaper regarding his experiences in Alaska. A photograph captures Hines fly fishing on Lake Wilson in the Tongass National Forest.
1948: With the encouragement of Frank Dufresne, now Director of Information for the USFWS, Hines leaves Ohio, moves to northern Virginia, and becomes a federal employee. Rachel Carson is Hines’s first supervisor. Already a Federal Duck Stamp artist, Hines is eager to observe the selection process for the stamp’s annual design. Appalled at the casual, subjective nature of the procedure, he proposes an open competition with stated rules, guidelines, and impartial judges—the format that remains in use today.
1951: Following the commercial success of The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson resigns from the USFWS. She and Hines collaborate on a study of marine life along the Atlantic coast.
1955: Rachel Carson’s The Edge of the Sea, illustrated with Hines’s pencil drawings, is released and reaches number two on the New York Times bestseller list.
1956: Release of the first U.S. postage stamps featuring American wildlife. Hines’s monochromatic images of wild turkey, pronghorn antelope, and king salmon grace the first three stamps. The press run for the series, which exceeds 500 million stamps, introduces the term conservation before it enters the national vocabulary.
1957:Release of Hines’s tricolor whooping crane postage stamp. A British philatelic survey names it one of the ten best stamps in the world for that year.
1963: Release of Ducks at a Distance, Hines’s primer of North American waterfowl identification. Rejected by five commercial publishers, the booklet sells over two million copies for the Government Printing Office.
1965: Release of Waterfowl Tomorrow, a study of waterfowl biology illustrated with Hines’s pencil drawings.
1966: Release of Birds in Our Lives, a discussion of the various ways that birds impact our society. The book, illustrated with Hines’s drawings, features his full color painting of a bald eagle on the frontispiece.
1971: Release of Sport Fishing USA. Hines’s color plates depict the habits as well as the habitats of the various fish species. One reviewer comments on Hines’s “accuracy and meticulous detail.” The fish images become a popular series of collector’s prints. Later that year, Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton presents to Hines the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of the Interior. The citation states
“Mr. Hines possesses a remarkable visual perception. . . . He paints wildlife in the act of being alive.”
1972: Ohio Congressman Delbert L. Latta reads into the Congressional Record: “The Department of the Interior can be proud to have Mr. Hines on its staff, for his service to his fellow Americans is priceless.”
1975: Hines illustrates Fifty Birds of Town and City. His bird images likewise become a series of collector’s prints. The Abercrombie and Fitch Company selects Hines’s painting of an Atlantic salmon for the National Fish Stamp.
1976: During the American bicentennial year, the Government Printing Office releases a reproduction of Hines’s bald eagle image. Titled “The Symbol of Our Nation,” the print sells over 100,000 copies.
1979: Release of a revised edition of Migration of Birds, enlivened with Hines’s color illustrations. A colleague notes, “those paintings glow with color, almost movement.”
1981: Hines retires from the USFWS after thirty two years with that organization.
1991: Release of the fiftieth anniversary edition of Rachel Carson’s first book, Under the Sea-wind. This is Hines’s last major commission. The museum at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, hosts an exhibit of Hines’s artwork.
1994:Hines dies on November 7, 1994, at age 82 of pneumonia superimposed on chronic lung disease. There is no obituary published, no public funeral service. In an interoffice USFWS memo a colleague notes that Hines’s “practiced eye could see the incredible details in a sunset or the breast of a wild turkey.”