Harold R. Wilkins 1912-2003
Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota
American Western Artist
Harold R. Wilkins was born in 1912 on a farm north of Tabor, Iowa in Mills County. His parents were very musical and enjoyed the arts. At the age of six his first pictures were drawn on butcher paper. He enjoyed drawing pictures depicting American western and pioneer lifestyle through out his life. He would draw on his personal rural experiences including Chester, Dan, Maude and Polly the families draft horses. His artistic skills were self-taught.
Wilkins did not fully develop his realistic western artistic style until retirement in 1967. He was a Lt. Colonel for 28 years in the United States Air Force. Wilkins was a pilot and flew "The Hump" during World War II. In 1979 and 1982 he illustrated the two volumes of history about the pilots, squadrons, missions and aircraft that flew "The Hump". Flying was one of his passions and he flew bi-planes in his spare time.
The best description of his art is a historic illustrative style. Some paintings required months of research. Then once he had the history and images set in his mind, he would paint them. The first art studio after retirement was Bellevue, Nebraska close to his SAC roots. Then he began to travel the art circuit in a trailer selling his pictures at art fairs. He enjoyed the art fairs. Traveling to fairs, cattle and horse shows also provided him with more ideas for paintings. The majority of his works were of the American west and oil on canvas and acrylic on canvas.
He also illustrated in pen and ink. Illustrating for historical and state calendars like 150 Years of the Oregon Trail. His membership in the Omaha Corral of Westerners provides him with accurate historic information supplied by other western history enthusiasts.
One of his projects was for the Nebraska Department of Tourism, which depicted chimney rock and was used to promote Nebraska on a calendar. The visitors at the site of the 1865 steamboat sinking of the Bertrand viewed Wilkins oil on canvas in 1972, which illustrated the event. The Nebraska Great State Seal Robbery was painted in oil on canvas. This historic painting shows the Nebraska Secretary of State, Thomas Kennard and Nebraska Governor David Butler robbing Omaha of the state seal. They then hide it under the buggy seat of their wagon and carry the seal to Lincoln. Lincoln remains the capitol today. The Nebraska State Historical Society owns the original drawings for this painting. He has illustrated many books, calendars, magazines and periodicals. The family owns a letter from Willa Cather requesting Wilkins illustrate her book.
Wilkins developed a major mural series for his own pleasure. The seven mural project took 23 years. He started the first mural in 1964 and completed the last mural in 1986. The series is seven murals approximately 4'x9' depicting the American west. The titles of the murals are: Buffalo & Native Americans, Wagons West, Territorial Dispute, Cattle Drive, Stage Coach & Pony Express, Sod Buster, and Railroads & Town Sites.
Wilkins last studio was at Harmony Court in Omaha, Nebraska. A scrapbook of all of his exhibitions, photographs of all of his production and other career memories disappeared from this studio prior to his death.
A reward is offered for return of the scrapbook with no questions asked. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any information about the scrapbook.
Wilkins art remains a historic treasure dedicated to the beauty of the American west and the American pioneer spirit.
The seven murals described in the biography are for sale by the owner.All seven murals will be sold together.
Copyright June 2005 Janet Gwendolyn Smith
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