Philip R. Goodwin was an American artist & illustrator known for his depictions of western scenes including fishing, hunting, wildlife, cowboys and Native Americans. He was also well known for his illustrations, the first of which he sold when he was only a wee 11 years old.
Goodwin was a child prodigy and sketched constantly. His parents recognized his innate talent and sent him to expand and polish his capabilities at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. He then attended the Art Students League in New York, and finally made the decision to head to Philadelphia so he could study with his idol, Howard Pyle, also known as the “Father of American Illustration,” at the Drexel Institute and later in Wilmington, Delaware. Goodwin eventually set up his studio in New York and led a successful artistic career with many accomplishments and achievements, including being published in some of America’s most popular magazines, such as Harper’s and Scribner’s.
Goodwin’s most famous work is made up of almost exclusively western scenes depicting precarious situations between humans and wildlife. Quite often, the point of story set before the viewer is exactly at the climax, where either bear or hunter needs to run or fight. Sometimes the human figure has the upper hand in the scenes, such as a pair of hunters in a canoe slowly creeping up on an unsuspecting moose; and sometimes he doesn’t, like when the grizzly bear stands between the cowboys and the cabin. His art leaves us all on the edge of our seats, dying to know more about what happens next. Obviously, Goodwin had a sense of humor and love of storytelling.
A private person by nature, there isn’t much known about Goodwin’s personal life. What we do know is that he was prolific at painting what interested him, however, he was not an avid hunter or western explorer. He did venture west to observe the subject matter he enjoyed painting, but was reluctant to join in the festivities. Despite his apparent lack of hands on experience, we think his art is a “dead ringer” for how those adventures actually feel.
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