Most of us are familiar with the art of Philip R. Goodwin — even if you don’t recognize the name. That famous Winchester logo, with the scout galloping across the prairie, his trusty lever action rifle cradled in the crook of his arm? Goodwin.
Philip R. Goodwin was an Easterner, born in Connecticut, but he had a profound affinity for the wild places of the American West, and he captured the thrill of the hunt, the splash and sheen of a fish strike on a fly, the exhilaration of hard work in the outdoors, perhaps better than any other artist.
A contemporary and friend of Charles M. Russell, Goodwin never achieved Russell’s stature as a “fine artist” (whatever that really means). Goodwin made his bones and his living as a commercial artist. His work appeared on gun and ammo marketing calendars and the like — the kind of thing you’d see in every hardware store in America. Remember hardware stores?
Goodwin was also a successful illustrator. His biggest commissions were illustrations for Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” and Theodore Roosevelt’s “African Game Trails.”
The artist may have been underappreciated in his own time, but not anymore. In sporting circles, his work is highly collectible and fetches fine prices. He is beloved for the way he captures spirit of outdoor adventure in an early 20th Century setting of plaid shirts, Montana-peak hats, demure young ladies and square-jawed, resolute men.
A magnificent book by Larry Len Peterson played a significant role in the Goodwin revival. “Philip R. Goodwin: America’s Sporting and Wildlife Artist” is a massive coffeetable book collection of Goodwin’s work, chock full of fascinating biographical information, including photographs of Goodwin vacationing with Russell in the Rocky Mountains.
Peterson has put together several award winning books on Western art and photography and recently published a novel, “Halfway to Midnight.”
If you are unfamiliar with Goodwin’s work, run down a copy of the book. It’s well worth the investment. I take it out and peruse it and enter a world and another time — one where I feel most at home.