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Charley Harper: Mid-Century Master

I’ve been a big fan of Charley Harper’s artwork for a while now. In a past life, I managed a custom framing gallery, and one of my clients was a collector of Harper’s prints. Over the years, she must’ve had at least 15-20 of his prints framed. I remember being intrigued by the way Harper looked at nature, and how he twisted the perspective to make it interesting and somewhat kooky.

A few years ago, I came across this huge coffee table book at my local Anthropologie store. It was a collection of a lifetime of work by none other than Charley Harper. What attracted my attention, other than the familiar images on its bright-colored cover, was the name Todd Oldham beneath the title. I was curious to find out why Oldham, known for his equally lighthearted and fun approach to design, was inspired to write and edit this book.

Upon reading the book, I learned that Oldham first became enamored with Harper’s illustrations when he was a young boy flipping through the pages of his childhood science text, The Golden Book of Biology (circa 1950s). Much later, his appreciation for Harper’s art was rekindled when he was rummaging through boxes of old magazines in a thrift store and stumbled across back issues of Ford Times, for which Harper was a contributing artist throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Take a look at this short video by Oldham, where he discusses Harper’s artwork, printing technique, and legacy:

Charley Harper died in 2007, but his artwork is just as fresh and remarkable as ever. You can view a large collection of his prints and posters in the gallery on his website. Most of the pieces are also available for purchase. I bought my first Charley Harper print at an auction a couple of months ago. I’m very excited. It’s called “Crow in the Snow” and its from 1974.

Crow in the Snow

I hope that you take the time to check out the beautiful artwork of Charley Harper. He truly was a Mid-Century Master. Here are a couple of my other favorites:

Manatee in the Mangroves, 1990

Shadow Dancers, 2006


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