By Mallori Murphey
Born in 1920 in Iowa, Maynard Reece is considered one of the founding fathers of American wildlife art and is a conservation legend. Reece began his storied career as an artist in the 1940s, working for the Iowa State Historical Museum. During his time there, he was mentored by none other than famed artist and conservation pioneer J.N. “Ding” Darling, who created the image for the first Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp in 1934.
Reece’s work has graced the federal duck stamp a record five times, in 1948, 1951, 1959, 1969, and 1971. His 1959 duck stamp design featuring the legendary retriever King Buck is arguably the most iconic of all time. He also painted the first Iowa state duck stamp, as well as countless other works of art for state and federal conservation programs. His artwork has been featured in numerous national magazines such as Life, Sports Illustrated, and the Saturday Evening Post.
In addition to his contributions to the Federal Duck Stamp Program, Reece was a lifelong friend and member of Ducks Unlimited. In 1973, he was named Ducks Unlimited’s Artist of the Year with his image Marshlanders—Mallards. He was also a Bronze Sponsor for over thirty years and a former Honorary Trustee of the organization.
Ducks Unlimited even restored a series of historic Iowa prairie potholes in his honor. The Maynard Reece project restored a pothole complex around Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge to increase the population of breeding waterfowl in the area.
With a simple stroke of a paintbrush, Maynard Reece literally had a hand in making an invaluable impact on conservation and wildlife. Through his artwork, generations of sportsmen and women have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy our wildlife resources and hunting heritage.
To learn more about Maynard Reece and view his work, visit DU’s Waterfowling Heritage Center located in the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis. And be sure to visit DU National Headquarters in Memphis where a complete collection of federal duck stamp prints is on display.