Charles L. “Chuck” Ripper 1929-2019
By Linn’s Staff
American artist Charles Lewis “Chuck” Ripper died June 29 in Huntington, W.Va. He was 89 years old.
Working with pencils, gouache, watercolor, acrylics and oils, Mr. Ripper was famous in the field of wildlife art, and he was also celebrated for designing and illustrating many United States postage stamps depicting birds and other animals in natural settings.
His most famous stamp issue is the 1987 North American Wildlife set of 50 22¢ stamps (Scott 2286-2335), which was the third pane of U.S. stamps issued to feature 50 different designs.
In the annual Linn’s Stamp News Stamp Popularity Poll, the North American Wildlife set was the overwhelming choice by collectors as their favorite stamp issue of 1987, and it easily won the vote for best commemorative design as well.
Mr. Ripper was a 50-year-old freelance artist when he was tapped for his first U.S. postage stamp assignment in 1980: a set of four 15¢ stamps celebrating coral reefs (Scott 1827-1830). He was well-known in the field of wildlife art when his work for the U.S. Postal Service began, having already illustrated every National Wildlife Federation conservation stamp issued in the previous two decades.
Many U.S. postage stamp designs would follow, including the 1981 set of four 18¢ Wildlife Habitats stamps (Scott 1921-1924), the 1982 13¢ Puppy and Kitten in the Snow stamp (2025), the 1984 20¢ Louisiana World Exposition stamp (2086), the 1986 22¢ Fish set of five booklet stamps (2205-2209), the 1990 $2 Bobcat definitive stamp (2482), the 1991 29¢ Fishing Flies set of five (2545-2549), the 1992 29¢ Hummingbirds set of five (2642-2646), and others. Mr. Ripper also had a postal card illustration to his credit: the 29¢ Common Terns postal card issued April 7, 2011 (Scott UX621).
Born Oct. 28, 1929, in Pittsburgh, Pa., Mr. Ripper studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and worked as a staff artist for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History before serving as a draftsman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War.
As a successful freelance artist, Mr. Ripper illustrated numerous magazine and catalog covers. He wrote and illustrated almost a dozen books, and provided illustrations for another dozen written by others, including wildflowers books in the Peterson Field Guides series.
He was celebrated in Huntington, where he moved in 1953 and lived for the rest of his life. Writing for The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, Megan Osborne noted that a trail named after Mr. Ripper at Harris Riverfront Park features his illustrations.
Mr. Ripper was preceded in death by his wife and one daughter. He is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren.
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