Francis Lee Jaques
The sound of wings on the wind
As a student at the University of Minnesota I read and studied at the Bell Museum of Natural History, on the floor, surrounded by dioramas, many painted by Francis Lee Jaques. The museum was my contact with the natural world, surrounded by a noisy urban environment; when not invaded by riotous school children, an oasis of quietude. I was drawn here foremost by the painted backgrounds of the dioramas, by the work of F. L. Jaques, a self-taught wildlife painter who lived in Minnesota. As a child I would hunt down examples of his art in the library and try to copy his work.
At the Bell I saw a vision of past environments now deeply changed. I have often climbed Mississippi river bluffs and never sited a Swallow-tail Kite (Always a rare visitor). I have travelled to many wild places in Minnesota and never seen a Whooping Crane and until recently never more than a pair of Sandhill Cranes. Behind the static mounted birds and animals, preserved in dioramas, exists a natural beauty I morn as nearly lost. Multitudes of birds once common are now rarely found in any number, elk nearly vanished from our area, wolves hunted to near extinction, and now preserved to be hunted again!
F. L. Jaques was a prolific artist, the 60 plus dioramas are constantly on view but much of his other work appears sequestered behind ivory towers or locked in out-of-print books. Unless you own a copy of the books authored by his wife Florence Page Jaques and illustrated by F. L Jaques you cannot marvel at his black and white work which conveys the sound of the wind rustling through pines or reeds.
|From The Geese Fly High page 57, by Florence Page Jaques, illustrated Francis Lee Jaques|
Another type of work found at the Bell Museum is unique, a painting fronted by a painted foreground on glass.
The Minnesota legislature originally funded the museum in 1872. In 2009 the Legislature voted to support a new facility, what has happened? We have funding for a new billion dollar stadium for the Minnesota Vikings instead!