Arthur Singer, one of America’s best known bird painters, was born in 1917 in New York City. His fascination with wildlife began early, with regular visits to the Bronx Zoo. By his mid-teens, Singer had already created a substantial body of early work, compositions drawn from first-hand observations of big game animals and birds at the zoo. His interest in wildlife art led him directly to the work of Audubon and Fuertes as well as a vision of what he later hoped to accomplish. After a formal art education at the Cooper Union and 4 years of service in the war, he settled into family life and a job as an art director, while pursuing his dream of being a wildlife artist. After the set of prints State Birds comissioned for the American Home Magazine had achieved enormous success, Singer was offered several contracts to illustrate books on birds. The year was 1958 and Singer became a full-time bird painter.
Realization of a Dream
During the late 1950’s, Singer began a project with Robert Porter Allen entitled the Giant Book of Birds. The Western Publishing Co. saw the high quality of the illustrations and decided to expand the idea into a serious volume to be known as Birds of the World . Written by Oliver Austin, the volume was a critical success and sold hundreds of thousands of copies (it was translated into eight languages.) With the success of Birds of the World many projects followed and the 1960’s saw Arthur Singer’s reputation solidly established in the first rank of the world’s finest bird artists. His guide Birds of North America (Bruun, Robbins & Singer) was the first real challenge to the Peterson Field Guides and has remained a best seller ever since. With over 6 million sold since first publication, Birds of North America is still regarded as his best known work. Families of Birds (Austin & Singer), the field guide Birds of Europe, (Bruun & Singer) Zoo Animals and the large volume of Birds of Europe were also published during the 1960’s.
The decade of the 1970’s saw the artist turn his attention increasingly toward painting. During this period Singer painted a number of oil and gouache paintings as well as over twenty prints for Frame House Gallery. His passion for travel, especially to wild areas took him to Africa, South & Central America, the Mid East and Europe, always in the pursuit of seeing new species in their habitat. The Seventies also saw the publications of Birds of the West Indies (Bond, Eckleberry, Singer), The Life of the Hummingbird (Skutch, Singer), Cats (Fitch, Singer) and the never-published Birds of the Ocean, and Birds of the Seven Continents.
As he devoted more of his attentions to painting, Singer took on fewer publishing projects and after Greenland Fauna and the book State Birds, his time was almost entirely given over to easel painting. Exhibits in 1982 and 1984 at the Hammer Gallery were very successful. Among colleagues in attendance at the Hammer exhibits were his friends Don Eckleberry, Guy Coheleach, Roger Tory Peterson, Al Gilbert, Guy Tudor, Dean Amadon and John Bull, a Who’s Who of bird artists and ornithologists.
Birds & Flowers of the Fifty States
Over his career, Arthur Singer illustrated more than 20 books & guides, several series of prints, porcelain plates, the hugely successful Postal offering Birds & Flowers of the Fifty States (selling over 500 million sets of 50 stamps) as well as numerous oil and watercolor paintings. He had earned an international reputation and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson’s Master Bird Painter award in 1981, the Audubon Society’s Hal Borland Award in 1985 and Cooper Union’s first Augustus St. Gaudens medal for lifetime achievement. Since his death in 1990 there have been six retrospective exhibits, including a major retrospective at the Leigh Yawkey Woodsen Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin and no the new book Arthur Singer Wildlife Art of an American Master.