Charles Fracé passed away on December 16, 2005, but his legacy as an internationally renowned wildlife artist and dedicated conservationist for more than 30 years will stand the test of time. His portraits of so many of the world’s beautiful animals – from a leopard cub to an elephant – are still admired and collected by people who have known the man and others who know of Fracé’s reputation for setting the standard for painters of wildlife.
Growing up in a rural environment, the artist spent his childhood outdoors, which grew into a fascination that remained with him throughout his life. Drawing at an early age, Fracé taught himself to paint, which eventually earned him a scholarship to the Museum School of Art in Philadelphia where he graduated with honors. He launched his career as a freelance illustrator in New York City and worked for some of the nation’s best known publishers of books and magazines. Accompanying a friend on a trip to Florida and helping handle birds of prey at a wildlife facility, Fracé experienced a reawakening of his love for animals. He knew he was destined to paint wildlife. His incredible talent won him a wide range of nature publishers and the artist soon became one of the nation’s most sought-after illustrators of wildlife.
Frustrated by deadlines and restrictions of illustration, Fracé longed to paint the animals he so loved. Painting for a time in his studio, he had finished only one work, which his wife, Elke, took to a local gallery. It sold that afternoon. Encouraged by the initial response to his work, Fracé spent evenings working on more paintings as he met illustration deadlines. In 1973, the artist went from illustrator to full-time artist and never looked back.
With the release of Fracé’s first limited edition print, massive collector acceptance of this new artist was overwhelming. Thirty years would pass as this Master of the Natural Domain painted his beloved animals and collectors eagerly awaited each new image. They knew with the artist’s talent and technique that every feather, every curvature, every habitat was correct; the viewer was brought up close and personal with Fracé’s animals.
During Fracé’s legendary career, he was featured in more than 450 one-man shows around the country. In 1992, the artist was honored with an exhibition of 36 of his paintings at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.
As a dedicated conservationist, Fracé held a deep concern for the endangered species of the world. He donated original paintings to raise funds and gave large sums of money to various wildlife organizations.
A hundred years from now, possibly much of the wildlife and settings Fracé painted may have vanished, but his legacy and work will stand as a record of these animals and their environment and the man who loved them so.