Owen Justus Gromme (1896 - 1991)

Birth date: 1896 Death date: 1991  
Birth location: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Death location: Briggsville, Wisconsin  
Media: Decoy , Illustration , Painting Web site:
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Owen Gromme
Born 1896 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Died 1991 in Madison, Wisconsin
One of the finest decoy makers in Wisconsin, Owen Gromme has frequently been referred to as the "Dean of American Wildlife Artists.”

Gromme began his career at 21 as a taxidermist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. After World War I he worked at the Milwaukee County Museum (Milwaukee Public Museum) for 43 years as a taxidermist, collector, photographer, movie editor, background painter, botanist, geologist, sculptor, and finally curator of birds and mammals. 

Gromme was famous across the state for his conservation activities and bird paintings which were influenced by both John James Audubon and Louis Azassiz Fuertes.  He won the national competition for the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp (duck stamp) of 1945 with his watercolor of three shoveler ducks in flight. In 1963, Gromme published his guide The Birds of Wisconsin. This scientific volume of paintings was the product of 25 years of work and includes all the birds known to Wisconsin; it is considered to be his biggest achievement.  

In 1978, he designed the first Wisconsin state duck stamp and received the Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year Award.  Gromme also helped to found the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Limited edition reproductions of his paintings have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for conservation-oriented projects.  
While Gromme never completed high school and received no formal art education, he received five honorary doctorates for his environmental work.  He persistently defended environmental causes for over half a century and tirelessly donated his time and talents to conservation efforts such as waterfowl habitat protection.

Gromme's 1978 commencement address at Marian College offered a glimpse into his environmental philosophy: “We owe a great deal to those who came before us, and it is our duty to pass on to posterity a world morally and physically as good or better than the one we live in. By every legal means it is our duty to oppose those who out of greed and avarice, or for selfish or other reasons, would pollute, defile or destroy that which means life itself to every living being.”

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

Milwaukee Public Museum,Wisconsin
1984  Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin 

Selected Group Exhibitions

Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D. C.
1982  Bird Art, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, Scotland; traveled to British Museum of Natural History, London; Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Bell Museum 

Selected Awards

2005 recipient of one of the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Awards (The Wisconsin Visual Art Hall of Fame)
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