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In Memoriam: John Ruthven, GCA Medalist


October 20, 2020

Naturalist, Author, Lecturer, and Wildlife Artist

John Ruthven (1924-2020), recipient of the GCA's 2015 Eloise Payne Luquer Medal, passed away October 11, 2020. Ruthven, a naturalist, author, lecturer, and wildlife artist, dedicated his life to conserving our natural treasures. Often referred to as the "20th-century Audubon," Ruthven’s eye for realism in his artwork burnished his reputation worldwide. He was known across the globe for his stunning works of art whose painstaking details are matched by their lifelike beauty. 

Ruthven was drawn (pun intended) to his career, a calling he developed at a young age, to help preserve nature’s endangered species. He first came to national attention in 1960 when the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Postal Service featured his Redhead Ducks painting on a stamp for the Federal Duck Stamp initiative, a program that has secured millions of acres of natural habitat for America’s flora and fauna.

In 1971, Ruthven founded Wildlife Internationale Inc. to publish and distribute his limited edition prints. Ruthven was recognized as Ducks Unlimited First Artist of the Year, First Ohio Duck Stamp Artists, and First Ohio Animal Stamp/Print Artist. His painting of a cardinal for Ohio’s most popular license plate raised more than $5 million for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

In addition to the Eloise Payne Luquer Medal, Ruthven received many other honors. Most notable was the 2004 National Medal of Arts he received from President George W. Bush. According to the citation, Ruthven was honored “for his impeccably accurate and unfailingly beautiful wildlife art, and in recognition of his contributions as an artist and naturalist to conserving our natural treasures.”

Ruthven’s wildlife paintings are on display in many museums including the Smithsonian, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum in Wisconsin, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York, and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Original works have been unveiled around the world — including in the White House, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Neil Armstrong Space Museum, and the Ohio State Capitol Rotunda.


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