Edward J. Bierly, 84, whose internationally recognized oil and watercolor paintings capture the repose and motion of lions, eagles, leopards, elephants, geese and elk, died of cancer May 24 at his home in Lorton.
Mr. Bierly's paintings of African and American wildlife have been widely exhibited in museums and featured on the covers of magazines. He was a three-time winner of the Federal Duck Stamp design competition who, unlike many wildlife artists, did not specialize in one species.
Mr. Bierly wrote that painting animals is an ancient, irresistible urge -- one that gave him pleasure:
"I have a strong sympathetic relationship with my animals and I try to feel what they feel, to become in my own mind a resting lion or an alert impala. To paint a deer in a snowy woods you must recall the cold stillness, and feel it again. To do a dozing lion you must remember the savannah grass on your back and the tropical sun on your face. If you do it right the viewers feel it too."
His paintings have been exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Audubon Society, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the National Wildlife Federation in Washington.
His drawings of armadillos, anteaters and the three-fingered sloth appear in Bernhard Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, the largest and most authoritative compendium of animal science. He illustrated several books, including "The Mammals of Rhodesia, Zambia and Malawi," a field guide.
Such magazines as National Wildlife, International Wildlife, Reader's Digest and the Arts Magazine have reproduced his paintings. Prints of his painting of Mohini, the National Zoo's white tigress, helped raise money for a field study of the Bengal tiger.
Edward Joseph Bierly was born in Buffalo and grew up exploring the creeks and woods of the nearby countryside. His art education at Pratt Institute in New York was interrupted by four years of service in World War II. While in Europe, during two of his four years as a first lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers, he worked in the camouflage branch, helping to hide military camps from aerial view and building phony military camps to confuse the enemy.
In 1949, he received a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Buffalo and went to New York, where he began his apprenticeship in the commercial art world as an illustrator.
He was called to serve in the Korean War for 18 months at Fort Belvoir, beginning in 1951. When he was discharged, he became an illustrator and designer of exhibits for the National Park Service.
Over the next 14 years, he observed grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park, mountain goats in Glacier National Park, alligators, pumas and manatees in the Everglades. He used the experience to depict various animals in their native habitats.
In 1956, his black-and-white watercolor of the American mergansers (now known as common mergansers) won the competition for the Federal Duck Stamp design, having been the second-place winner on his first try in 1955. He went on to win this prestigious competition again in 1963, with a black-and-white watercolor of the brant, and 1970, with a watercolor of Ross's geese.
A pivotal point in Mr. Bierly's art career came in the early 1960s when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization asked him to help with the design of three new museums in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the planning of its natural history exhibits.
During his trips to Africa in 1962 and 1964, he spent time in Wankie National Park, one of Africa's largest elephant sanctuaries and home to buffalo, zebras and giraffes.
"As many have said before, you are never the same after seeing Africa," Mr. Bierly wrote of the experience, which he said "turned me to serious easel painting."
He also left Africa concerned about the uncertain state of game animals throughout the continent and became determined to use his art in the cause of conservation.
After returning home, he captured on canvas scenes vivid in his memory, and in 1968, he had a one-man show at Abercrombie & Fitch in New York.
In 1970, he left the National Park Service and devoted his time to painting African and American wildlife.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Edith "Edie" Bierly of Lorton; four children, Edward Bierly of Morristown, N.J., Peter Bierly of Kauai, Hawaii, Elizabeth Bierly of Lorton and Bridget "Nelli" Bierly of Fairfield, Va.; and four grandchildren.