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Chuck Ripper


Painter Charles Lewis ‘‘Chuck’’ Ripper (October 28, 1929 – July 6, 2019) of Huntington was one of the country’s best-known wildlife artists. His detailed paintings have appeared on nearly 100 magazine covers and 80 U.S. postage stamps, as well as in books and on greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, and even bank checks.

Ripper was born in Pittsburgh. His father was a blacksmith by trade but also an amateur landscape painter who spent hours in the woods, with his young son tagging along. His mother was an elementary art teacher. Both parents encouraged his interest in nature and art. While Ripper was a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he had his first bird painting published in Nature magazine. An author saw it and, not knowing Ripper was only 19 years old, invited him to illustrate his forthcoming book. The young artist completed the necessary 61 drawings and delivered them shortly before his 20th birthday.

Ripper was drafted during the Korean War, and he spent his stint as a draftsman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1953, Ripper moved to Huntington to work as art director for the now-defunct Standard Printing & Publishing Co. At night and on weekends, he continued to draw and paint wildlife. In 1964, he quit his job to become a full-time freelance artist. He created 1,492 illustrations for the Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers, part of the Peterson’s Field Guide series. He also illustrated books for the National Audubon Society and the National Geographic Society. He designed more than 550 conservation stamps for the National Wildlife Federation.

Ripper’s works have hung at the Norman Rockwell Museum of Illustration in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the Explorers’ Hall at the National Geographic Society, and the Denver Museum of Art. In West Virginia, his work has been shown at the Culture Center and the Huntington Museum of Art. A trail at Huntington’s Harris Riverfront Park is named for him and features his illustrations.

His daughters, Janet Ripper Chambers, and Elizabeth Ripper Kelley, are also painters. Their work has appeared with their father’s in the Department of Natural Resources’ annual wildlife calendar.

Ripper died at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington. He was 89 years old.

Written by James E. Casto