Poultry Art is Historic and Enduring

Iconic artwork prints now available

Poultry Art is Historic and Enduring

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Art has always been important to the poultry fancy. Poultry art attracts a wide audience.  

A recent exhibition in Los Angeles featured the works of German sculptor Katharina Fritsch. https://www.matthewmarks.com/los-angeles/exhibitions/2020-02-13_katharina-fritsch/installation-views/ The exhibit was closed due to coronavirus shutdown, but a virtual tour is posted.  

One of her roosters, 13 feet tall, polyester and steel, painted with blue acrylic paint, is accompanied by two life-size men, looking at their smart phones. Her rooster sculptures have also been displayed on top of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and Trafalgar Square in London. 

Fritsch’s roosters are generic, evoking the traditional rooster, without details of a specific breed. Exhibition breeds rely on artists to convey the beauty and perfection of the ideal bird. 

Historic Artworks 

The American Poultry Association and the American Bantam Association illustrate their Standards with artworks rather than photos. No perfect bird exists, and chickens and other poultry are notorious for being unwilling to pose. Getting a perfect photographic image that illustrates the breed’s significant points is impossible. 

The APA Standard still uses some of Schilling’s black and white illustrations in the most recent (44th ) edition of the APA Standard. Color paintings are credited to contemporary artists Diane Jacky, Katherine Plumer, Richard Bills, Aaron Hamilton, Charise Cooper, Kim Munden, and Caroline Hipkiss.  

Breeding requires the eye of an artist. Breeders develop their eye for perfection over years of experience. That eye overlaps with appreciation for poultry in art.  

Kathy Ashcroft’s “Sharing the Stable,” over the mantle in my living room.

The internet has made it easier for poultry art lovers to connect. Check out Facebook pages for historic artists Arthur O. Schilling, Louis Stahmer, and Franklane Sewell. Contemporary artists have their own pages. Each has a distinctive style. 

A portrait of the Rhode Island Red painted by Schilling was presented to the governor of Rhode Island in 1954, when the Rhode Island Red was designated the official state bird. Robert Frost describes his favorite pullet, “In her we make ourselves acquainted/ With one a Sewell might have painted,” in his poem, “A Blue Ribbon at Amesbury.”  

Individual collectors amass their own collections. Businesses and other organizations collect for their corporate identity. Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Kansas has a collection. I’ve acquired a few, including an original Schilling oil of Phoenix chickens and Kathryn Ashcroft’s giclee reproduction of a hen and her chicks “Sharing the Stable.” 

Prints Now Available 

Watt Global Media’s collection is well known. The company has a large collection of original oil paintings of poultry. J.W. Watt and Adon Yoder, founders of Watt Publishing Company, now WATT Global Media, commissioned the artists to create the paintings in the mid-1920s by as illustrations for the Poultry Tribune. The paintings date from 1926-1950, following the history of poultry development over those years. The company is now reproducing them as prints, https://www.wattglobalproducts.com/collections/poultry-painting-canvas-prints?page=1.  

With renewed interest in Standard and heirloom breeds, the company brought the paintings out of storage to celebrate the company centennial in 2017. They placed the entire collection on display in the building that was Watt Publishing’s first home in Mt. Morris, Illinois 

African Geese by Stahmer, 1930

In 2019, the company made the paintings available to the public as print reproductions on canvas. Offering prints became possible with the advent of print-on-demand technology.  

“Advances in technology-enabled us to bring the collection to the public,” said Nancy Batio, director of marketing for Watt Global Media. “Now people can enjoy them in their homes and offices.” 

The collection includes 58 paintings, of chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, chicks and ducklings, and guineafowl. Prints are available for most of the paintings. 

The artists’ styles are different, each unique, but they captured the beauty and perfection of each breed. The paintings are so good that many are still used in the APA Standard of Perfection. 

Prices start at $49.95. The price defrays the company’s cost. 

“Any revenue from sales is minor,” Ms. Batio said. “It’s not the main goal. We wanted to make it so that people could afford to order them.” 

Reproductions come in various sizes, depending on how each one worked on the canvas. In some cases, edges had to be trimmed from the print.  

Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys by Schilling, 1943

“We did the best we could with them,” Ms. Batio said. “We only put up paintings that lend themselves best to the format.” 

Sales have been steady since they launched in November 2019. The Barred Rock has been the favorite so far. 

“Barred Rock was the top breed back in the 1920s when the pictures were created,” she said. It’s very pretty, a beautiful painting, really striking.” 

All poultry species are included in the print collection: turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas.  

Finding a Museum Home 

Ultimately, this collection belongs on permanent display in a museum.  

“There haven’t been any opportunities,” Ms. Batio said, “But we keep our eyes and ears open.”  

A permanent display would require a location and funding to support it. Contact Ms. Batio with suggestions at nbatio@wattglobal.com.  

The historic poultry breed paintings, and their images, are the exclusive property of WATT Global Media, and unauthorized copying or reproduction is strictly prohibited. 

Prints available include: 

  • African Geese by Stahmer, 1930 
  • Austra Whites by Schilling, 1943 
  • Barred Plymouth Rocks by Schilling, 1930 
  • Barred Rock New Hampshire Cross by Schilling, 1942 
  • Barred Rock New Hampshire Cross by Schilling, 1943 
  • Black Jersey Giants by Schilling, 1945 
  • Black Jersey Giants by Schilling, 1948 
  • Black Tailed Red Leghorns by Stahmer, 1930 
  • Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys by Schilling, 1943 
  • Buff Cochins by Schilling, 1928 
  • Buff Laced Polish by Schilling, 1928 
  • Buff Orpington by Schilling, 1931 
  • Buff Plymouth Rocks by Schilling, 1927 
  • Chick, Poult, Duckling by Stahmer, 1930 
  • Chicks by Schilling, 1944 
  • Columbian Plymouth Rocks by Stahmer, 1930 
  • Columbian Wyandottes by Stahmer, 1928 
  • Cornish New Hampshire Cross by Schilling, 1950  
  • Dark Brahmas by Schilling, 1946 
  • Dark Cornish by Sewell, 1945 
  • Golden Laced Wyandottes by Stahmer, 1939 
  • Golden Sebright Bantams by Stahmer, 1939 
  • Golden Spangled Hamburgs by Stahmer, 1926 
  • Jungle Fowl – Gallus Bankiva by Schilling, 1945 
  • Lamonas by Schilling, 1941 
  • Light Brahmas by Schilling, 1945 
  • Light Sussex by Stahmer, 1931 
  • Mottled Houdans by Stahmer, 1926 
  • Muscovy Ducks by Stahmer, 1929 
  • Narragansett Turkeys by Sewell, 1930 
  • New Hampshires by Schilling, 1940 
  • Old English Game by Schilling, 1946 
  • Partridge Plymouth Rocks by Stahmer, 1927 
  • Pearl Guineas by Schilling, 1947 
  • Pekin Ducks by Schilling, 1946 
  • Rhode Island Reds by Schilling, 1941 
  • Rhode Island White by Stahmer, 1928 
  • Rose Comb Rhode Island Reds by Stahmer, 1928 
  • Runner Ducks by Schilling, 1947 
  • Silver Campines by Stahmer, 1930 
  • S.C. Anconas by Schilling, 1947 
  • Single Comb Black Leghorns by Sewell, 1946 
  • Single Comb Brown Leghorns by Sewell, 1947 
  • S.C. Buff Leghorns by Stahmer, 1926 
  • S.C. Buff Minorcas by Stahmer, 1926 
  • S.C. White Leghorns by Schilling, 1932 
  • S.C. White Minorcas by Stahmer, 1926 
  • Utility Barred Rocks by Schilling, 1944 
  • White Australorp by Schilling, 1945 
  • White Holland Turkeys by Schilling, 1927 
  • White Holland by Schilling, 1950 
  • White Jersey Giants by Stahmer, 1931 
  • White Langshans by Stahmer, 1928 
  • White Leghorns by Schilling, 1942 
  • White Plymouth Rocks by Schilling, 1942 
  • White Wyandottes by Schilling, 1931 

Originally published in the October/November 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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