Beauty in the Beast

Beauty in the Beast by CJ Cook and Paige Herbert

Flora, Fauna, and Endangered Species of Artist Ralph Burke Tyree

By CJ Cook and Paige Herbert

Ralph Burke Tyree was a prolific artist who helped popularize Polynesian art in the 20th century. Beauty in the Beast is the story of Tyree’s creative genius in painting flora and fauna, including colorful and exotic animals from around the world, many of which are endangered species.

Published to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, Beauty in the Beast explores the works of the last ten years of Tyree’s life when animals became his focus. Some endangered species covered are the pangolin, cotton-top tamarin, ornate Hawk-eagle, dwarf lemur, red panda, slow loris, and several big cats, including tigers, lions, and leopards.

A tribute to the artistic brilliance of Ralph Burke Tyree and the animals and plants of our planet, Beauty in the Beast begins with a quote by Albert Einstein that evokes one of the greatest challenges of our time: “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

PODCAST: C.J. Cook joins Suzanne Lang on A Novel Idea to discuss Tyree and Beauty in the Beast

Please enjoy Beauty in the Beasts of Ralph Burke Tyree.

240 Pages and 372 Figures.
ISBN: 978-0-9984224-6-6
Library of Congress Control Number:  2023908878

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People Who Bought This Book Had This to Say


A collection of paintings centers on endangered animals. During World War II, Ralph Burke Tyree was deployed to Samoa, an island in the South Pacific, and he became enchanted with its “idyllic beauty.” In fact, he loved it so much he moved his family there for years, later taking up residence on Guam and Hawaii (Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island).

Beginning in the late 1960s, he turned his attention to flora, especially passion flowers, magnolias, and hibiscuses. In the last 10 years of his life—he died in 1979—his preoccupation was the depiction of animals, “celebrating creatures big and small, common and endangered, and local and foreign.” His principal focus was endangered or threatened animal populations—he made a concerted effort not just to capture their feral beauty, but also to raise public awareness about their vulnerability.

Cook and Paige Herbert (the artist’s granddaughter) reproduce in this gorgeous assemblage of vividly colored works dozens of Tyree’s paintings from the last decade of his life. The authors include an edifying running commentary that not only discusses the paintings themselves and Tyree’s evolving artistic techniques, but also the animals depicted and the extent to which their populations are imperiled.

And while Tyree’s stunning portrayals of animals is the book’s primary emphasis, the authors feature an impressive variety of works beyond that category, including portraits of people and depictions of plants and flowers.

The heart of the volume is the paintings themselves, which are startlingly vibrant—saturated colors take on a striking depth and texture when Tyree paints with oil on French silk black velvet. A foreword is contributed by the artist’s daughter, Marda Tyree Herbert, who furnishes a loving tribute to her father’s devotion to his work and his “creative genius.”

The authors’ mastery of the subject is magisterial—this book is a remarkable feat of artistic scholarship. For those who are already familiar with Tyree’s massive body of work as well as those who have never heard of him, this volume is a visually arresting portal into his mature paintings. A beautiful art book filled with rigorously researched commentary.


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