Charles Harper Illustrations – Giant Golden Book of Biology

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Giant Golden Book of Biology – An Introduction to the Science of Life c1961
Text by Gerald Ames and Rose Wyler – Illustrated by Charley Harper

It doesn’t get much better then this. This is Charley in his prime.

“In a style he called “minimal realism”, Charley Harper captured the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements. When asked to describe his unique visual style, Charley responded:

When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.[cite this quote]

He contrasted his nature-oriented artwork with the realism of John James Audubon, drawing influence from Cubism, Minimalism, Einsteinian physics and countless other developments in Modern art and science. His style distilled and simplified complex organisms and natural subjects, yet they are often arranged in a complex fashion. On the subject of his simplified forms, Harper noted:

I don’t think there was much resistance to the way I simplified things. I think everybody understood that. Some people liked it and others didn’t care for it. There’s some who want to count all the feathers in the wings and then others who never think about counting the feathers, like me.”

- Wikipedia

Also be sure to check out our post on Charles Harper’s illustrations for Ford Times.

Charles Charley Harper Illustrations - Giant Golden Book of Biology

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Charles Harper is rad, I picked a book called “Learning with colour – biology” illustrated by him for a dollar at an op shop, its such a cool book his illustrations are amazing. Also I stumbled across this about him ealier today

Oh! from closer inspection its the same book with a different cover.

Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous!! The illustrations are so appealing, and nostalgic but timeless too. Thanks for sharing. Also, I wondered if the bird mobile from egg carton material was available for purchase??

Hey Jackie,
I’ll email you with the info for the bird mobile.

I bought the gigantic Charley Harper book for Julie’s birthday. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my long life. Cheers!

Jezariah Hambone Bonifay |

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You sold that book for $765 – yeeks and congratulations!

I remember this book from my childhood. Beautiful illustrations that captivated me for hours. I’ll have to go back to my parent’s home and see if I can dig this up!

I wish I had this book when I was a kid. I got stuck with Ranger rick. I’m not dissing ranger rick but, he’s no charley harper.

Julie is going to love it!

Thanks Thomas!
I really appreciate it. You rock!


For anyone in the Cincinnati area, there’s an exhibit of Charley Harper’s original paintings currently at Country Club Gallery that includes some of his illustrations for the Golden Book of Biology:

Hi everyone. I have an original and signed Charley Harper for sale. It is the Bass Fish. email me for pics. This is from the 40s or 50s.


susan haskins |

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I found this book at a thrift store for 50cents, and cut it up! Oh well, I’m going to frame a lot of it.

Cory Weaver |

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I purchased artwork in 2007 by different artists at a Spellman family estate sale and included is an original Charles Harper signed and never before seen or published. The image is 18 1/2 x 13 inches of a bird feeding nestlings a big yellow and black striped bug, on a lavender background. Any ideas out there of value?

Shelley Carlsopn |

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Hi. I used to use Charlie Harper’s illustrations from the Golden Book of Biology with my struggling Biology students. They have to pass the MCAS or they won’t graduate. I’ve lost my copy during my moves from floor to floor at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in MA. Is anyone willing to sell me a copy of this book at a decent price?

Just thought I’d ask.

Marlene LaBossiere |

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I wonder how we could convince the publisher to put this book out again.
Universe put Miroslav Sasek’s excellent series out again. Charlie’s Giant Book of Biology certainly warrants the same. Could we gather somehow to campaign for it?? How would one do that I wonder. Betty.

If Shelley or any others have any Charley Harper art they are looking to sell, please email me.