Arthur Shilstone, an American watercolor artist whose career spanned nearly 80 years and a veteran of the top secret WWII Ghost Army deception unit, passed peacefully in his home/studio at the age of 97 on July 30, 2020.
Mr. Shilstone was born in 1922 in Weehawken, NJ, to Arthur and Elsie Shilstone. He had one older sister, Dorothy Shilstone. His early years were spent in Glen Ridge, NJ, until his family moved to Lake Mahopac, NY, during the Great Depression. He graduated from Mahopac High School in 1940. On the recommendation of his high school art teacher, he decided to attend Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn, NY.
Mr. Shilstone's studies were put on hold in 1942 when he enlisted in the U. S. Army and was recruited for a top secret deception unit known as the "Ghost Army." There he served in the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion with other artists, movie makers, sound engineers and designers including well-known figures such as fashion designer Bill Blass, artist Ellsworth Kelly and photographer Art Kane. His unit participated in five campaigns and was responsible for the diversionary tactics that drew German troops away from post D-Day skirmishes in Normandy as well as 20 other missions. Several of his paintings based on his wartime experiences are currently on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA. Over the years, Mr. Shilstone was interviewed for numerous books, television shows and documentaries, including the 2013 movie The Ghost Army and the book The Ghost Army of WWII by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles.
After the war, Mr. Shilstone returned to his studies at Pratt Institute under the G. I. Bill, graduating in 1947 with a degree in Illustration. He pursued additional studies at the New School for Social Research and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. He then commenced on a long and varied career in commercial illustration, his works appearing in over 30 major publications including Smithsonian, Life Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, Gourmet, The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic.
His 12-year stint with Life Magazine included reportorial drawings covering momentous trials and news stories of the day, including the funeral service in the Senate for controversial senator, Joseph McCarthy; the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education decision to integrate schools; the infamous Shepard murder case in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as the hearings to determine fault in the sinking of the ocean liner Andrea Doria.
His work also included scores of book jackets and album covers for artists such as Billie Holiday and Aaron Copland. In addition, Mr. Shilstone's works are hanging in the boardrooms and offices of major U.S. corporations including U.S. Steel, Exxon, AT&T, Freeport Mineral Co., Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co. and Western Electric. His work is also found in many collections including the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, and the Victory Center Museum in Yorktown, VA.
Mr. Shilstone was an official NASA artist, one of eight artists in the country chosen to cover the maiden voyage of the space shuttle. Several of his paintings covering space shuttle blast-offs and landings are part of the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL. Other government assignments included work for the National Parks Service and the military including a series of drawings for the Military Air Transport during the Korean War. As part of this assignment, he flew on an evacuation plane with wounded soldiers from Japan to Oahu during the Pacific Airlift.
As his career evolved, Mr. Shilstone changed his primary focus to fine art, painting sporting subjects for art galleries. His specialties were hunting and fishing, subjects he was familiar with from his early experiences growing up on Lake Mahopac. He soon became nationally acclaimed in that field being published in Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Sporting Classics and Gray's Sporting Journal. His fishing art was featured in the book, Flashes in the River by Ed Gray. More recently, a retrospective of his life's work was celebrated in the book, Arthur Shilstone: A Lifetime of Drawing & Painting by Fred Polhemus. His last painting was a commission of a fishing scene that he completed three months before his death.
Mr. Shilstone received numerous honors during his lifetime. He was an award winning member of the Society of Illustrators in New York where he was honored with a one man show, and he was also a lifetime member of the American Watercolor Society.
Mr. Shilstone was a longtime resident of Redding, CT, having moved there in 1957, residing in a remodeled barn that also served as his studio. As a father of two boys, he had a longtime association with the Redding Boys Club, first as a coach for Little League baseball and Pop Warner football, then as a board member and finally as president. He and his wife Beatrice were also founding members of the Redding Land Trust.
He was predeceased in 2016 by his beloved wife Beatrice Nickoll Shilstone after 63 years of marriage. He is survived by his son Jonathan Shilstone who lives in Ridgefield, CT, with his wife Martha; and his son William Shilstone who lives in Bedford Corners, NY, with his wife Heide. He also leaves behind five grandsons, Timothy, Matthew, Robert, Chad and Alec and a great granddaughter, Riley Jade Shilstone.
Towards the end of his long and illustrious career, Arthur was asked what he thought of as his greatest accomplishment. He replied that nothing was more important to him than his role as a husband, father and family man.
Due to COVID restrictions the service will be private, but friends and associates may share a memory or tribute at https://www.boutonfuneralhome.com/obituary/arthur-shilstone
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Redding Land Trust, P. O. Box 1076, Redding, CT 06895 or online at: https://reddingctlandtrust.org/giving#financial.
For inquiries regarding commercial illustrations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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