Arthur Shilstone, renowned watercolor artist, passed away July 30 at his Redding, Connecticut, home.
He was 97 years old. Shilstone was born in Weehawken, New Jersey, in 1922 to Arthur and Elsie Shilstone. He grew up in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and Lake Mahopac, New York, with an older sister, Dorothy. Shilstone graduated Mahopac High School in 1940.
Shilstone was an enthusiatic sportsman from an early age.
“We spent summers at our retreat on the lake from the time I was 4 years old,” he told Anglers Journal in 2015. “My dad moved the family there in 1929 when I was 16 years old after losing everything except the cottage in the stock market crash. Those were tough times for my family, yet for me they were idyllic. “We had the lake to ourselves. I’d go fishing in the family canoe or hunt for grouse or pheasant or rabbit in the woods or fields. The opening of bass season was the second-biggest day of the year for me (after Christmas). And on opening day of hunting season, half the boys in school were out ‘sick’ with hunters’ flu. I had a whole different feeling living there than I did living near the city. Later, when I turned from commercial illustrations to gallery art, I drew on my experiences at Lake Mahopac to start painting sporting art.”
After high school, Shilstone attended the Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he studied for two years before enlisting in the Army. Shilstone was assigned to a World War II unit called the “Ghost Army,” whose soldiers — armed with inflatable tanks, cannons, jeeps, trucks and airplanes — created illusions and spread disinformation to deceive the Third Reich into overestimating the strength of Allied forces.
Upon his return from the war, Shilstone finished his degree from the Pratt Institute, graduating in 1947. He and his wife, Beatrice, married in 1953.
Shilstone was known at the time for illustrations that appeared in such magazines as Time, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Gourmet and others. He also illustrated album covers and created corporate artwork for companies such as AT&T and Exxon.
Shilstone eventually shifted his focus to fine art, crafting hunting and fishing paintings for galleries and magazines. He soon became nationally acclaimed and was published in Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Sporting Classics and Gray’s Sporting Journal.
Fred Polhemus, who profiled the artist for Anglers Journal in 2015, wrote this about Shilstone’s techniques: “Shilstone creates mood by blurring details in mists and skies. Tight details, such as fins and feathers, are not a priority in his work. He uses his brush to show men pursuing game and to capture a body of water at a particular time of day, bathing the scene in the light and rich colors of the season. His goal is to create a sense of place and a place of sense in which sight, sound, look, and the changing light and shadows crystallize the moment.”
Shilstone’s last painting was a commission of a fishing scene that he completed three months before his death. Shilstone was preceded in death by his wife, Beatrice, of 63 years, who died in 2016. He is survived by sons Jonathan Shilstone, who lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut, with his wife Martha, and William Shilstone, who lives in Bedford Corners, New York, with his wife, Heide. He leaves behind five grandsons: Timothy, Matthew, Robert, Chad and Alec, as well as a great-granddaughter, Riley Jade Shilstone.
For more about Shilstone’s life and artwork, read “Master of the Moment,” which originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Anglers Journal.