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  • Philip GoodwinSep 16, 1881 - Dec 14, 1935
  • A Bear Chance - Philip R. Goodwin was an American painter and illustrator who specialized in depictions of wildlife, the outdoors, fishing, hunting and the Old American West. He provided illustrations for numerous books and magazines, as well as for commercial items, such as posters, advertisements and calendars. He is perhaps best known for illustrating Jack London's The Call of the Wild and for providing the cover art for many issues of Outdoor Recreation / Outdoor Life Magazine during the 1920s and early 1930s.
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A Bear Chance
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  • A Bear Chance

  • Philip Goodwin
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  • 1907
    Illustration for Cream of Wheat
    Minneapolis Institute of Arts, United States.

    In this painting, a large brown bear sits in a clearing of a snowy pine-studded forest, devouring a wooden crate full of Cream of Wheat cereal. Its tracks mark the surrounding snow, reflecting the bear's deliberate movement in pursuit of its quarry. Exhibiting characteristic curiosity, independence, and voracious appetite, the bear appears to be perfectly comfortable in this winter wilderness, as it displays its deft survival skills. The painting conveys a clever marketing message by suggesting that the bear was lured from its winter den by the cereal. This is a testimony indeed to the alluring nature of Cream of Wheat since, normally, the bear would spend the winter in deep hibernation.

    To promote a product, Goodwin has created a charming narrative scene as well as a compelling image. An innately strong and intelligent animal, the bear evokes a gamut of associations and connotations. American history is laced with tales of bears. Pioneer explorers such as Lewis and Clark and Davy Crocket encountered the grizzly bear in their push westward. Traditionally admired and respected by native Indian peoples for its extraordinary power, the bear is frequently represented on Native American art objects. Inspiring terror as well as amusement and affection, bears are especially intriguing to people, in part because we recognize human behavior in them. As powerful and dangerous as bears can be, they also evoke benign associations such as those related to the gentle and cuddly teddy bear, the responsible Smokey Bear, the delightful Winnie the Pooh, or the beguiling, hospitable animals in the fairytale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

    Despite the large and lumbering nature of this bear, Goodwin emphasizes its ANTHROPOMORPHIC qualities. How human it appears as it sits and savors the cereal! Using its front paws like human hands, the bear firmly clutches the crate and nuzzles its mouth and nose greedily into the box. Its hearty appetite and obvious enjoyment could easily be translated to human experience. The image suggests that if you eat Cream of Wheat, you too will be strong, fortified, and able to survive the challenges at hand. In addition, the pristine and invigorating aura of the snow-covered wilderness reinforces the pleasure to be experienced when eating this hot cereal.

    Although we see a tranquil, unspoiled setting, the Cream of Wheat crate and its commercial label is a reminder of human activity and the encroachment of civilization and industrial growth. While we cannot be sure if the trees here have been felled by natural disaster or by human exploit, Goodwin provocatively juxtaposes the wooden crate├│a by-product of the lumber industry├│with the adjacent tree stump. Perhaps it is a commentary on the possessive attitude people have toward natural resources and the human desire to domesticate not only the environment but animals as well. Today, from our late-20th-century vantage point, we lament the consequences of such activities as we struggle to preserve our vanishing wilderness areas and endangered wildlife.

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Philip R. GoodwinPhilip R. Goodwin was a precocious child, painting and drawing from a young age. At age 11, he sold his first illustrated story to Collier's. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Art Students League in New York City, the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, as well as under famed illustrator Howard Pyle at the Howard Pyle School. At the age of 22, in 1903, Goodwin illustrated Jack London's Call of the Wild and later Theodore Roosevelt's African Game Trails as well as posters, calendars, and other advertisements. In 1904, he opened a studio in New York, where he created illustrations for Collier's Weekly, Everybody's Magazine, Outdoor Life, and McClure's Magazine, as well as covers for The Saturday Evening Post. He was an avid sportsman and outdoorsman and befriended Charles Russell, N.C. Wyeth, Carl Rungius, Theodore Roosevelt, Will Rogers, and Ernest Seton Thompson. Rungius taught Goodwin an appreciation for hunting in order to become closer to wildlife subjects. Traveling on many sketching expeditions together, Goodwin influenced Russell's painting techniques and use of color.

In the National Museum of Wildlife Art's The Surprise, a photographer is coming upon a mother bear and her two cubs. The painting exemplifies Goodwin's open color palette, use of distance and atmosphere, and sense of humor. He painted many wildlife, hunting, fishing, and western scenes, often composed from behind the subject's shoulder.

Goodwin's work is recognized in many private collections and museums, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Charles M. Russell Museum, the Thomas Gilcrease Institute, the Brandywine River Museum, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Glenbow Museum, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art.