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Giving Wings to Our Feathered Friends
A Ford Times Retrospective
In the early 1950s Charley Harper was asked by Arthur Lougee, Art Director of Ford Times (a lifestyle publication from Ford Motor Company), to paint some of our feathered friends. It was then that Charley took his first close look at birds as subject matter and the creation of the legendary Ford Times Bird Series was born. Charley recalled,
Art Lougee asked me to paint a feeding station for birds. I told him that I didn't know what he was talking about—back on the farm, birds had seemed perfectly capable of feeding themselves. So the art director sent Charley a sample feeding station to examine, and the rest was history.
Popular demand for the images resulted in Charley creating hand-pulled silk-screen (serigraph) prints in his basement and selling them to the public out of his studio and by mail order. The earliest of these bird prints (1954) were available through the magazine, for as little as $4.50 each, plus shipping; Charley continued to produce the series until 1960. Most of the images were sold out long ago, with very limited stock of a few images still available today. Charley made no more than 100 to 250 of any individual image, making these mid-century marvels some of his most limited and most sought-after by collectors. To better explain the simplistic form of his subject matter, Charley has been quoted as saying,
And so I have never counted the feathers in the wings, for that is not what my pictures are about. I just count the wings.
—Charley Harper Art Studio