John Deere art

Classic Farm and Tractor – May/June 2019

By: Leonard R. Anderson

There have been many very good artists over time and their art has become a large boost to JD nostalgia. Most early advertising was paintings and that continued, along with photographs until improvements eventually helped photographs take over. I’m sure most of you have seen many of these early works and are as impressed as we are.
My first memories of JD paintings were Walter Haskell Hinton’s works. His Deere paintings started with the early tractors, carried through World War II and into the ’50s. Walter was born in San Francisco, where he spent his early childhood, and then moved on to Denver and Chicago. His mother was an accomplished artist, serving as his inspiration. His early interests were western pioneer and Native American cultures. He attended art school in Chicago, where he spent most of his life. He painted many magazine covers along the way and his work is displayed in many galleries. His portrait of the lady farmer on the John Deere tractor waving to the military convoy was a great inspiration during the war.
Jeanne and I had the pleasure of knowing Raymond Crouse and we became good friends so we will attempt to tell you about things we actually know. When the York, Nebraska dealership changed owners, the new owner knew Raymond and featured him at our grand opening, which was actually a grand two day affair and would make a great story in itself. Raymond had been commissioned by Deere for many paintings from the early ’80s on, often showing featured new products and many farms scenes.

My first experience with one of his prints came at a JD training gathering in Phoenix, when they divided the class on Deere history and nostalgia. They had a quiz at the end and the winning group received a print of the 55 series tractors. Dan, our territory man at the time, was in the same group and (believe it or not) I kept relatively quiet and fortunately was part of a group where the rest of them were much wiser. I really enjoyed the picture, but never thought much of it until meeting Mr. Crouse. He brought several items for viewing and of course for sale to our open house.
He was painting “Harvest Heritage” at the time, featuring the Maximizer combine with the corn head. John, our territory manager at the time, was rather ornery and very good at keeping a straight face when necessary. He was standing by the painting, carefully counting while pointing when Raymond came up and asked, “What is wrong?”
John turned around and seriously said, “Raymond, do you realize you just invented a nine row corn head?”
After his initial look (“if looks could kill”) filled also with panic, he begin laughing along with the rest of us. After telling him about the print I won and giving him the number of it, along with an additional order, it became nearly automatic for us to order and receive the new print.
His gallery was at the John Deere dealership in Greeley, Colorado so we took up his offer for a visit and received a great tour along with being taken out for a great lunch. While there, he had just finished “Legendary John Deeres” honoring the 8000 series introduction. The 8400 was MFWD with a partial turned front wheel so he said, “Walk back and forth and watch the front wheel turn with you.”
As usual, without thinking, I said, “Raymond, how gullible do you think I am?”
My much wiser wife said, “You better do it, I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about.”
After several trips with the same result, I conceded, but not without inquiring as to whether it was simply an accident or was it planned? He said it took quite a bit of work, but finally he accomplished what he wanted. It has been shown to probably hundreds of people and all have agreed.
Raymond started his agriart in the late ’70s and along with many of his original paintings, he sold certified, limited serial numbered prints also. He printed and sold numerous postcards along with thank you cards and other occasions. He made several Christmas cards, with new designs each year, which we used for many years ourselves, with family and friends anxiously awaiting the next edition. We still use them quite often. We sold many of these items at our store and I’m sure several others did the same.
His business cards were another popular item; however, for us, it was the thank you cards sent to customers who bought equipment that were the best received items. I really don’t want to say it worked well as a sales aid, but I’m sure it never hurt either! We received many comments on the cards and have seen many of them framed and on display.

We sold Raymond a very nice JD “B,” which he used on his acreage and wound up in a portrait.
While speaking to Raymond one day, after our usual round of pleasant verbal abuse, he informed me he was being interviewed by Deborah Fraizer of the Rocky Mountain News and she wanted to talk to me. Sure enough, we talked for several minutes and he sent us a copy of the article.
After my retirement and his not so much later, we didn’t communicate often, but still kept in touch. He told me what Deere wanted for licensing fees, which made it easy to see why he retired.
We lost Raymond a few years ago—we miss him and are thankful for lots of great memories!
Charles Freitag is a native Iowa farm boy who began his love of art in high school and went on to the Academy of Art in Chicago. Norman Rockwell was his inspiration, which is a pretty good way to get started. He was off to a very early start and now in his early 40s, he is a very established artist. He has many magazine covers, awards and paintings on display in numerous galleries and home collections. It’s easy to obtain his prints as they are displayed and for sale at many John Deere dealerships.
His work covers a wide variety of farm scenes, so it should be easy for anyone to find something they like and would certainly fit into you decor. Time to stop and leave room for a few great portraits, so farewell for now and remember, “Put others first and you will never be last.”