The late Bob Hines grew up in Fremont and devoted much of his painting to wildlife. He was mostly self-taught.
Bob Hines’ boyhood was idyllic — spent hunting, fishing, and camping along northwest Ohio’s scenic Sandusky River in the 1920s.
At home in the river town of Fremont he kept a menagerie of wildlife, from fish, snakes, turtles, and ducks to owls, and an albino crow, with woodchucks, skunks, opossums, and raccoons mixed in. His mother tolerated crawdads and snakes in the ice box — it was a real ice box back then — and a toad that flicked flies off the lace curtains.
Born Robert Warren Hines on Feb. 6, 1912, he went on to become a renowned, mostly self-taught artist-illustrator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, designer of the 1946-47 federal duck stamp [a redhead], and illustrator of more than 50 books, including some of the writings of the iconic Rachel Carson.
It would take a museum exhibit to do justice to the reach of the career of Hines, who died in 1994. As it turns out, the man’s onetime hometown, Fremont, has just the place, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. Through a combination of good luck and good networking, the center is planning an extensive Hines exhibit beginning next February.
Word is being spread now in hopes of smoking out any locally owned Hines originals that owners might lend to the exhibit.
“Bob Hines would undoubtedly be pleased that the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of his birth with an exhibition of his art work,” said Tom Culbertson, the center’s executive director. “Some his early observations of flora and fauna were here on the grounds of Spiegel Grove.
“The groundwork for his career as a wildlife artist was laid in Fremont and the vicinity while hunting and participating in the Boy Scouts. Mr. Hines’ passion was to educate the public about the beauty of nature through his art. The Hayes Center is pleased to be working with Dr. John Juriga to make the public aware of Bob Hines’ accomplishments.”
Among other things, Culbertson said, “it would be nice to find an example of his early taxidermy work, but that might be a bit much to hope for.” The center executive said area residents and wildlife art collectors who may hold Hines works are welcome to contact the Hayes Center at Spiegel Grove about lending them to the Hines exhibition in February.
The exhibit promises to be a fine attraction not only because of its hometown-boy connection, but also because of the region’s tremendous waterfowling heritage. The Winous Point Shooting Club on Sandusky Bay, for example, is the oldest continuously operating duck hunting and waterfowl conservation club in America, founded in 1856.
Tens of thousands of duck hunters also may have carried a waterfowl identification booklet done by Hines, Ducks at a Distance, in their pockets. The Government Printing Office made more than two million copies in the 1960s and 1970s, this after five publishers rejected it.
The man to thank for this coming golden opportunity is Juriga, 57, a pediatrician by profession now living in Elmira, N.Y.
Among other things, he is completing a 10-chapter, 250-page biography on the artist. It should be in print in time for the exhibit.
“Basically the project fell into my lap,” said Juriga, who brought a truckload of Hines memorabilia and collectibles to the Hayes Center recently. “This project has been a welcome diversion for me.”
Juriga, an avid lifelong birder, lived and practiced 12 years in Salisbury, Md., home of the prestigious Ward Museum of Wildlife Art. While there, he became involved in the Ward curatorial committee that in 2003 planned an exhibit observing the 100th anniversary of the national wildlife refuge system.
In his involvement at Ward, Juriga came to know Russell Fink, owner of Russell Fink Gallery in Lorton, Va., who purchased the Hines estate after the artist’s death in 1994.
“Russ was very generous,” Juriga said, and boxes of papers and leads on artwork were forthcoming.
“It was like mining geological strata,” said Juriga, noting that some items had been buried in boxes for decades. As a result he compiled a trifold pamphlet on Hines for the refuge centennial exhibit at Ward museum. “As I was researching,” Juriga said, “I realized there was a story to tell about Bob Hines.” Hence the coming biography.
“He was involved in so many aspects of conservation history. There was just a story begging to be told.” In fact, Juriga’s connection with Hines went back even further.
In 1999 he served as guest curator at Ward museum for a Rachel Carson exhibit. He obtained original artwork used in Carson’s 1941 book, Under the Sea Wind, done by Baltimore artist Howard Frech. At the same time he was able to locate art done by Bob Hines for the 50th anniversary edition of Under the Sea Wind in 1991. Carson and Hines were long-time friends and professional colleagues, and Carson was his first boss at the USF&WS in 1948.
Juriga, in turn, had been a lifelong fan of Carson, who authored the epic environmental warning, Silent Spring, in 1962. “I did my high school American literature term paper on Rachel Carson.”
Juriga worked with the Service in 2007 with a Rachel Carson centennial exhibit at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. He reminded the Service about the Hines centennial approaching in 2012 and ended up volunteering to send inquiries to various museums. That culminated in “an enthusiastic response from the Hayes Center.”
And that’s how it came to be that Bob Hines will be remembered here in northwest Ohio in February.
“It’s certainly appropriate that the Hines artwork is coming to Fremont since he spent his boyhood there,” said Juriga.
So that is the genesis of Bob Hines’ memorial, centennial homecoming. For the rest of the story, visit the Hayes Center exhibition come February.
Contact Steve Pollick at email@example.com or 419-724-6068.