Sketchbooks of leading wildlife illustrator rediscovered
Horned Owl, pencil on paper
Charles G. Copeland (1858-1945) hailed from Thomaston, Maine and was largely self-taught, with formal classwork limited to one semester at the Lowell Institute in Boston. Unlike many other American artists of the post-Civil War period, he did not pursue additional training in France or Germany. Copeland grew up surrounded by the rich Maine wildlife, many of the animals and birds in these two sketchbooks doubtless done from life. I bought at the Allentown Paper Show from a Maine dealer, who knew I liked sketchbooks and brought them to my attention. I quickly riffled their pages. realizing from a few annotated pages that they were started in the mid-1880s and completed around 1902. I was enchanted by their skilled and lively renditions of furred and feathered creatures, always having been a sucker for depictions of animals. I inquired if the artist's name was known and the dealer pointed out Copeland's name, faintly inscribed in pencil inside the front cover of one book. I had never heard of Charles Copeland but responded to my strong appreciation for the charm and quality of work. When I got home and began researching the artist, it became evident that he not only was quite well-known in his lifetime, but had illustrated many books and articles devoted to wildlife and nature. Copeland spent his career in Boston, working for major periodicals like Youth's Companion and Harpers Weekly, as well as illustrating nature-centered books. He was a member of the Boston Art Club and the Boston Society of Water Color Painters, and also had at least two solo exhibitions at the Williams & Everett Gallery in Boston, additionally exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He took space at the well-frequented Tremont Street studio building, where William Rimmer and Richard Morris Hunt had also worked. In 1889, Walter Montgomery devoted a chapter to Copeland in his large illustrated book: American Art and American Art Collections.