AITKIN -- If you missed the Francis Lee Jaques exhibit at the University of Minnesota this spring, you'll get another chance to view the famed naturalist's works, this time closer to home.
"A Scratch in the Surface: The Art of Francis Lee Jaques" retrospective opens Tuesday for a six-week run at the Jaques Art Center in Aitkin.
The show will include a scaled-back version of the university's 100-piece exhibit, plus several recent acquisitions by the center that bears the artist's name.
Jaques, who emerged in the 1930s as one of America's leading wildlife painters, spent his teen-age and early adult years in the Aitkin area, where he worked the railroads and operated a taxidermy shop.
He moved to New York in the mid-1920s as a painter and illustrator with the American Museum of Natural History. Over the next 40 years, his works appeared in numerous magazines and books, including many authored by his wife Florence.
The Aitkin exhibit will include several paintings from Jaques' famed Outdoor Life magazine collection.
The art center, organized in 1995 to occupy the town's original public library, has pledged "to always have Jaques works on display" as a tribute to one of Aitkin's favorite sons, said Cherie Holm, the board member who developed the new show.
An avid Jaques collector, Holm and her husband Jerry -- Aitkin natives who live in the Twin Cities -- have contributed several pieces for the exhibit, including several recent acquisitions.
The couple, for example, recently acquired Jaques' original scratch board for "Ruffed Grouse" which graced the cover of "John Burroughs' America," a book about another of America's greatest naturalists.
A scratch board is the clay-based plate used in the printmaking process Jaques favored.
"It came up for auction on E-bay at Thanksgiving, and as I was cooking turkey I was running back and forth to the computer to make our bids," Holm said in an interview this week.
"We ended up with it at a reasonable price," she added. "It pays to keep your eyes open."
In another recent public auction of Jaques works, Holm, as well as Paul and Ruth Hauge of Aitkin, bought several pencil drawings that will be displayed during the show, she said.
Several other pieces have been added to the exhibit by Bill Hubachek, who owns Basswood Lodge in Ely.
Jaques gave Hubachek's parents, close friends of the artist, five scratch boards, one of which had been stored in a closet for 50 years, Holm said.
The lodge owner has donated "Sunday on the Wanagins" to the Aitkin museum for its permanent Jaques collection. The others have been loaned for the exhibit.
Holm, who also serves on the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum of Natural History curating committee, "grew up with the artist's nephews and nieces" in the Aitkin area.
"We were aware of his passing -- Jaques died in 1969 -- but not of his life," she said, "because we weren't wise enough when we were younger. His family was our neighbor but we didn't know this famous man was their relative."
Holm was introduced to Jaques' work at the Bell Museum's retrospective shortly after his death, she said.
The artist once worked for the Bell, where he contributed numerous dioramas for the museum's wildlife displays.
The Aitkin art center is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, call (218) 927-2363 or consult the center's Web site at www.jaquesart.com.
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