"He is a phenomenal
man and outstanding artist; there is
no question in anyone's mind that Owen
Gromme is one of the greatest wildlife
painters of all time." – Ken McCreary
Known as the "dean of
U.S. wildlife artists," Gromme was
a native of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He
spent most of his professional life as
the curator of birds and mammals at the
Milwaukee public Museum. Gromme's reputation
as a painter of wildlife enabled him to
bring attention and action to important
conservation issues such as legislation
to protect birds, the protection of the
Horicon Marsh, and the formation of the
International Crane Foundation. Gromme
served as president of the Wetlands for
Wildlife organization and was among the
first to crusade against the use of chemicals.
quote above is from former Ducks Unlimited
Executive Secretary Ken McCreary. It
could just as well have been spoken by
thousands of Gromme admirers across the
state of Wisconsin and the country.
Gromme is credited with being the “dean
of U.S. wildlife artists.” He was
prolific yet demanding of himself. He
spent 20 years working on his book, Birds
of Wisconsin, a pictorial
representation of all birds known to live in Wisconsin.
native of Fond du Lac, Gromme spent his
childhood in the marshes and forest of
east-central Wisconsin, surrounded by
His first professional job was as a taxidermist
at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
Later, after serving in World War I, he went to
work at the Milwaukee Public Museum, where he was
curator of birds and mammals.
He became head of the department and stayed on
until retiring in 1965. That set the stage for
two more decades of work, for an artist never really
retires. Nor does one who is imbued with the conservation
ethic, and Gromme was that kind of person.
He understood how important conservation education
and public support were to the environmental cause.
was fearless when it came to speaking out about
issues, as in the 1930s, when he pushed for a
closed season on ducks, bag limits on geese
and other environmental legislation. He
worked with Aldo Leopold to influence legislation
that would protect herons, hawks and owls.
His networking and organizing skills were
strong. He played an important role in
helping to stave off efforts to drain the
Horicon Marsh. He was among the founders
of the International Crane Foundation in
Gromme was heavily involved in observing and
collecting specimens for the museum, and he had
a keen eye for noting environmental concerns.
He was one of the first to notice the scarcity
of birds of prey and warblers, and learned that
this was due to chemicals being used to fight
Dutch elm disease. Long before Rachel Carson's
Silent Spring, Gromme
was crusading against pesticide misuse.
• Known as “dean
of U.S. wildlife artists”
• Worked in the birds and mammals department of
Milwaukee Public Museum
• Was master artist at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art
Museum in Wausau
• Called for waterfowl seasons and bag limits
• Used his influence to raise millions for conservation
(Publication of this fact sheet made possible
with assistance from Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin.)
For further information on
Owen Gromme, read his Hall
of Fame monograph.
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