Massachusetts Masterpieces: The Decoy as Art A Curatorís Quest for Beauty
|Sleeping Plover by Melvin Gardner Lawrence, oils on carved wood
Sunday, May 5 – Sunday, September 15, 2013
No other region engendered such aesthetic quality and diverse styles of decoy carving as Massachusetts. For this exhibition, consulting curator Gigi Hopkins will select the best of the best, bringing together an unrivalled group of carvings that reveal the sculptural skill of Massachusetts’ master carvers. Hopkins is a renowned conservator who has worked closely with decoys for nearly five decades, analyzing and reproducing subtle details of form, texture, and color. For this exhibition, she took on the role of curator, selecting decoys from some of the finest folk art and sporting art collections in the country. She says, “Every bird here stopped my heart when I first saw it. It has been an intense joy to bring these treasures together—and even nicer, to bring them back to their home state.”
Massachusetts makers made many of the decoys most prized by collectors. Of the highest decoy auction prices realized, nine of the top ten were for Massachusetts decoys. As a decoy-making region, Massachusetts is unique in that its carvers did not develop a particular style. Each Yankee craftsman came to the task with his own eye, voice and ingenuity. Exhibition visitors will view a never-before-exhibited rig of five elegant Yellowlegs, each in its own pose. Hopkins attributes these to Frederick Nichols of Lynn. Just a few miles away in Revere, Melvin Lawrence made birds that couldn’t be more different. His beguiling Sleeping Plover, a highlight of the exhibition, was cleverly designed to be both beautiful and indestructible.
Important works by famed decoy makers Elmer Crowell, Lothrop Holmes, Joseph Lincoln, and the Folger Family, among other noted carvers, are included in the exhibition. Another highlight will be the oil painting, The Coot Shooter, by the prominent American Impressionist artist, Frank W. Benson. This is the first time the painting has been publicly exhibited since it was created a century ago.
Massachusetts Masterpieces: The Decoy as Art was made possible through loans from 15 private collectors across the country, and from Historic New England. It will be on view through September 15.
Back to top
A. Elmer Crowell - A Sampling
Elmer Crowell (1862-1952), of East Harwich, on Cape Cod, was far and away the most gifted bird carver and decoy maker of his generation. His work is prized by collectors for sheer beauty of form, detailed carving, and masterful, subtle brushwork.
Due to the substantial interest in our 2009 exhibition, A. Elmer Crowell: Master of Decoys & More, we have produced an ongoing exhibit featuring a small, but select sampling of his work. On view are an early pair of Green-winged Teal, recent gifts to Mass Audubon by an anonymous donor, and made by Crowell for one of his early patrons, Harry V. Long. In addition, visitors will see two magnificent decoratives on loan from the collection of Alexander Figge: a Curlew and a Yellowlegs preening a feather. Also on display is an array of the miniature bird carvings for which Crowell became so well known.
Back to top
About the Museum of American Bird Art
The Museum of American Bird Art is Mass Audubon's art museum, offering exhibitions and programs that connect people and nature through art. Exhibitions are open Tuesday-Sunday, 1-5 pm. Trails through the 124-acre wildlife sanctuary are open Tuesday-Sunday and Monday holidays, 9 am - 5 pm. Admission is free to Mass Audubon members. Non-member fees are $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. For information: 781-821-8853 or email@example.com.
963 Washington Street
Canton, MA 02021
Directions to the Museum of American Bird Art
Visit the Museum Gift Shop!
Visit the Museum Gift Shop and find an array of unique gifts, as well as original art, books, stationery and educational toys. We offer special discounts to Mass Audubon members. Proceeds from your purchase support the Museum of American Bird Art's ongoing education and conservation efforts.
Back to top