Alaska Artists: Magnus Colcord Heurlin

lonely caribou in Alakan Nature

As conservationists and people who care deeply for animals and wildlife, we created Alaskan Nature to  provide educational information about the flora and fauna of the great state of Alaska. With both our written information and our stunning photos, Alaskan Nature hopes to inspire people in appreciating and understand the true beauty of Alaska Nature.

Magnus Colcord "Rusty" Heurlin was a Swedish-American artist who captured the beauty of Alaska in his artwork.

On July 5, 1895, Magnus Colcord “Rusty” Heurlin was born in Sweden, where his parents were vacationing. The family returned from Sweden in 1896, and he was raised in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He attended art school at the Fenway School of Illustration in Boston. He was the son of Berndt Felix Heurlin and Sophie Bjorklund. Rusty, as he was called, attended art classes at the Fenway School of Illustration in Boston.

His parents' disapproval of painting as a career led him to enroll in Cornell University's Engineering School in 1893, At Cornell, Louis Fuertes was elected to the Sphinx Head Society, the oldest senior honor society at the University. He graduated from Cornell in 1897.

.Heurlin first came to Alaska in 1916, traveling aboard the S.S. Northwestern from Seattle, Washington to Valdez, Alaska. He later moved to Barrow where he lived and painted, concentrating on the Inupiat, creating many works depicting whaling and hunting.

He joined the U.S. Navy in 1917 and left the state during World War I, serving in France. Because of his extensive knowledge of armaments Rusty Heurlin attained a job as Admiral Plunkett's orderly in the naval railroad batteries.

After completing his military service, he moved to Westport, Connecticut where he began a career as a professional illustrator, creating illustrations for a number of magazines. Rusty Heurlin became a member of the Silvermine Guild of Artists in New Canaan.

Heurlin worked for the Public Works of Art Project and then joined the WPA Federal Arts Project, for which he painted two murals, Eskimo Children at Play and Arctic Life, for Bedford Elementary School in Westport. Upon completion of the murals, Rusty Heurlin returned to Alaska

Rusty Heurlin returned to Alaska around 1935, and moved outside Fairbanks to the gold mining village of Ester with his wife, Anne Downer Severin.. The artist worked on the gold dredges near Ester for the Fairbanks Exploration (FE) Company at Independence Mine.

In 1942 Heurlin became an officer in the Alaska Territorial Guard which was organized to protect Alaska from Japanese invasion. During the 1930s, as part of FDR's New Deal programs to ease the country out of Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) hired many noted American artists. On the US entry into World War II, several WPA artists took work with the War Department. A few of these artists made their way to Alaska to help document the Aleutian Campaign and other Alaskan military operations, including the new Alaska Territorial Guard.

Some of their work was featured nationwide on a number of wartime posters. The artists included Magnus Colcord "Rusty" Heurlin, who was an ATG lieutenant at the time. His painting was reproduced as the posters "Back the Attack" and "From Metlakatla to Barrow - The Territorial Guard".  After World War II he returned to his cabin in Ester, where he resided until his death at age 90.

Heurlin taught the first art classes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the 1950s, and received an honorary doctorate from the university in 1971. He was also named to Alaska's 49ers Hall of Fame. Heurlin was known for his pastel palette and luminous skies, and influenced many later Alaska artists, such as Fred Machetanz.

Johnny AculiakEdwin Tappan Adney| George Twok Aden AhgupukAlvin Eli Amason| Saradell Ard|   Belmore Browne| Vincent ColyerJules Bernard DahlagerLockwood De Forest| Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh| William Franklin Draper| | Henry Wood Elliott| John Fehringer| Claire Fejes| Louis Agassiz Fuertes| Magnus Colcord Heurlin| Norman Jackson| Rockwell Kent| Sydney Mortimer Laurence| Fred Machetanz| Marvin Mangus| Milo Minock| James Kivetoruk Moses| Rie MunozJoseph Henry Sharp| James Everett Stuart| John Webber| Kesler Woodward|


Rusty Heurlin world war II poster for alaska

Rusty Heurlin world war II poster for alaska

Alaska's Tribes:

Below is a full list of the different Alaska Native cultures. Within each culture are many different tribes.

Learn more about Alaskan tribes

Aleut Athabascan Eyak
Haida Inuit Tlingit
Tsimshian Yupik