Goodwin's Life: An Illustrated Adventure

by Erin Anderson

 



 

Even as a student, Goodwin's style was attractive to various outdoor and wildlife venues owing to the charm of his varying characters. This appealing quality resulted in his first important commission from the renowned author, Jack London. London commissioned the illustrator for what would become one of the most famous books written at the turn of the century, The Call of the Wild, first published in 1903. London, a west coast author, experienced some of North America's greatest outdoor adventures such as gold-seeking expeditions in California, seal-hunting adventures in Alaska, and train-hopping all over the continent. He wrote intensely about life and death questions and about how human dignity regards the wildlife that surrounds us -- a topic very appealing to early 20th century Americans. Goodwin shared this interest with London and proved to be a perfect choice for the commission. After publication, Goodwin had established himself as an illustrator on the rise and was thus invited to join the oldest professional art organization in America, the prestigious Salmagundi Club, whose members included Frederic Remington, Carl Rungius, John Marchand, Will Crawford, Maynard Dixon, and Edward Borein.

Goodwin graduated from the Drexel Institute and moved to New York where he kept a studio and received regular commissions from magazines such as Scribner's, Harper's and The Saturday Evening Post. A quiet and humble man, Goodwin was well-liked by others in the art community and admired by most.

Goodwin's life forever changed when in October of 1903 his father passed away, leaving him to care for his mother. Philip built his mother, Ella, a home that they shared in Mamaroneck, NY, but still kept his studio in New York City where he could still be surrounded by his artist community. While Ella stayed close to the home and never accompanied Goodwin on his trips, Goodwin remained devoted to her and was a companion until her death in 1924.

While living in New York, Goodwin met Charles M. Russell, an artist from Montana who was there to meet with art dealers and promote his work. Russell was just gaining recognition with his western art, intriguing easterners with the unruly cowboys and Indians of the American West. The New York crowd was delighted by Russell in his colorful cowboy getups, recognizable by his bright red sash always tied around his waist or as a scarf around his neck. Fellow artists such as Goodwin showed Charlie and his wife Nancy around New York and introduced them into the art scene. This solidified a life-long friendship between Goodwin and Russell. They grew to inspire one another in their pursuits of studying wildlife and depicting the characteristics of nature for which both are infinitely remembered. While Russell shot to fame by his own accord as arguably the greatest western artist of our time, he retained a special affection for the New York illustrators who had helped his development with their early influences in his work. Those first few visits to New York were critical to his development as a leading artist.

In September of 1905 Goodwin was finally able to make his first trip out west, taking his camera and sketch pad with him to capture the beauty and majesty of the Rocky Mountains and its creatures. Goodwin used his camera to capture the arrangement of his subjects, catching the moment before it passed, giving him a chance to paint it thoroughly and thoughtfully later in his studio. Goodwin organized the composition initially by studying his photos. He would then combine that image with his field studies to create his final paintings that eventually sold to the companies who commissioned them. These field studies clearly are indicative of the natural ability Goodwin had for depicting accurate anatomy, particularly in the appointment of movement. On this great adventure, he saw first hand the Wild West he had dreamed of as a child and experienced the subject matter he desired in his work and in his great love of outdoor activity. Mostly accustomed to the Maine wilderness, Goodwin marveled at the wild game and unending landscape that he encountered on his travels. Months later, upon his return to New York, Goodwin created a beautiful image from one of his magnificent studies of a bull moose swimming across a north country lake, becoming his first color cover for the Saturday Evening Post.

Goodwin's love of wildlife was explored with artists such as Charlie Russell and Carl Rungius, one of the country's best known contemporary wildlife artists. While stylistically similar to Rungius in their shared ability to portray practically perfect anatomical features, Goodwin included the excitement of action to his pieces which are evident in his whimsical "predicament paintings". This would become perhaps the most common theme present in later works, which were inspired by Russell's own depictions of human subjects surprised by animals demonstrating anthropomorphic traits.

The Saturday Evening Post turned out to be a good venue for Goodwin's work. In June of 1906, Goodwin was given another opportunity to explore his artistic illustrations with the concept of "pretty girl" covers for a campaign engaging strong, independent women of the plains. Continually using his niece as a model, Goodwin produced numerous illustrations of cowgirls, ranchers, fisherwomen, and boatwomen. This proved to be significant when American men sailed off to Europe to fight in World War I. Women were left with the duties of keeping American productivity alive and these types of advertisements helped promote that image of tough and reliable women.

Anxious to return to the west for another adventure, Goodwin went on a sketching trip to Ontario in the summer of 1907. There, he explored a looser, more impressionistic style of painting. While Impressionism was just a recent developing movement in the United States, Goodwin discovered how to capture light on the canvas, observing how naturally it affects every aspect of his subject.

 

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