People passionate about nature

Clarence Tillenius

Ernest Thompson Seton Medal Recipient 1985

Honorary President of the MNS 1980

Clarence Tillenius, wildlife artist, past Society president from 1954-56, board member from 1951-54, Honorary Life Member since 1975 and 50-year-member of the MNS, has accepted the post of Honorary President of the Manitoba Naturalists Society for the coming year.

Three years ago, Clarence Tillenius was on Bathurst Island, weathering the winter temperatures of 57 below zero. He was in pursuit of Arctic foxes and polar bears in their natural habitat.

Last year, Mr. Tillenius was in the Rocky Mountains, sketching, primarily in and around the Okanagan Valley.

For wildlife artist Clarence Tillenius, it is not enough to paint wildlife. He first studies mammals in their natural settings, be they the grizzlies of the Yukon or the caribou of Newfoundland, the musk-oxen of the Barren Lands or the polar bears of the Arctic ice floes. He has painted the rotund porcupine and the fleet white-tailed deer, the black bear and the timber wolf.

Clarence Tillenius, through his art, captures the wilderness spirit in the quintessential Canadian soul.

Since his childhood in the Interlake, Mr. Tillenius has devoted a lifetime to painting all species of Canadian wildlife. But while a life immersed in the study of the wild is the dream of many a young naturalist, the goal is never an easy one to achieve. Long established MNS friends cite Mr. Tillenius' courage and perseverance. After he had already gained a youthful reputation  for the technical skill and lifelike quality of his work, Clarence Tillenius lost his right arm - his painting arm - in a construction accident. Under the tutelage of fine artist and great friend Alexander Musgrove, he mastered the use of his left hand, and went on to create some of his most ambitious works.

In 1954, a year during which Mr. Tillenius served as President of the Natural History Society, Monarch Life Assurance Company commissioned him to paint a series entitled "Monarchs of the Wild" - paintings which depict many of Canada's principal wild animals, from grizzlies and mountain lions to bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope.

He has also painted dioramas for museums in Victoria, Edmonton and Ottawa, and two for the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature. The new polar bear diorama is his, as is the magnificent 51-foot diorama depicting a Red River buffalo hunt at the museum's entrance.

What is Clarence Tillenius doing now? He is working in his Winnipeg studio and sketching in British Columbia and Florida. ("Florida?" said his wife. "What would you paint in Florida?")

Cougars. The cougar paintings and the results of the B.C. trips will be exhibited and sold at a major exhibition scheduled for the Lockhart Gallery this November.

Despite his weighty reputation for artistic excellence, Clarence Tillenius is known to friends throughout the MNS for his personal qualities. David Hatch admires his "phenomenal education" (and envies his 6,000-book library). "The greatest theme of Clarence's life is that he is a great humanitarian," says Hatch.

And Mrs. Tillenius, herself a respected freelance writer, notes that she and Clarence are distinctly Manitoban. "Our roots are here," she said. "We'd never leave our home on the Assiniboine River."

The Manitoba Naturalists Society is delighted and honoured to have them both.