Roger Preuss, noted wildlife artist

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 16, 2007 - 9:59 PM

In 1949, the wildlife artist became the first Minnesota native to paint the design for the federal duck stamp.

Roger Preuss, a conservation leader and the first Minnesota-born artist to paint the image on the federal duck stamp died Tuesday in Minneapolis.

He was 85.

Preuss, a Waterville, Minn., native, and a longtime Minneapolis resident, won the duck stamp contest in 1949. In the ensuing years his work was exhibited in museums across the United States and in London.

"Preuss established the initial standards for future duck stamp winners to exceed. His enthusiasm for wildlife art and his support of conservation work done by natural resources professionals will be missed," said Mark LaBarbera, communications director, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"He made a lasting impression by his ageless energy and his convictions about his artwork and his passion for sharing his outdoor images," LaBarbera said.

Nearly 20 Minnesotans have won the contest to create the federal duck stamp that is sold to hunters and collectors, more than from any other state.

As a youngster growing up in Waterville, Preuss became fascinated with the wildlife just outside his back door. By the age of 9, he won school awards for his drawings.

After high school, he earned his degree at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and he served in the Navy during the 1940s. He preferred to draw his subjects from life, whether a moose in the northwoods or a songbird that joined him inside his south Minneapolis home and studio.

He was a "pioneer" in wildlife art when he won the federal duck stamp contest, said Jerry Eppel of Bloomington, a former art dealer who once worked for Wild Wings wildlife art publishers, now owned by Cabela's outdoor outfitters. "He was a grandfather of wildlife art," Eppel said.

"Hundreds of thousands of copies of his artworks have been produced," including a long-printed wildlife art calendar distributed nationally, added Eppel.

Preuss often donated his art to raise funds for organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever, said his attorney, Gary Bergquist, who added that Preuss also donated land near his Waterville birthplace to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As the Minnesota chairman of National Wildlife Week in 1958, Preuss said, "To get the greatest use and enjoyment from this public estate we will have to make certain that it is carefully protected. Only in this way can these lands continue to meet the needs of our growing nation."

Among many honors, he was named the U.S. Bicentennial Wildlife Artist in 1976, and in 1997 was awarded the U.S. Department of Interior's Public Service Award for his achievements in waterfowl and wildlife conservation.

His wife, MarDee, died 20 years ago.

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