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This exhibition showcases some of the best work of A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) of East Harwich, 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.
Eleven never-before-exhibited, early pieces are featured in the exhibition. Most exciting is a Canada goose with a sinuously curved neck. This is a mate-piece to Crowell’s well-known preening goose and hissing gander, and has been described as the best of the three.
This same group includes a robust preening pintail, an inquisitively-reaching black duck, a calling green-wing teal drake with hen, and a snuggle-headed merganser. Visitors will also enjoy viewing four early shorebird decoys, three black-bellied plovers and a yellowlegs, in the same form as the famous decoys shown on the dust-jacket of William Mackey’s classic 1965 book, American Bird Decoys.
These extraordinary pieces are surrounded by other classic Crowell carvings of shorebirds, gamebirds, and waterfowl, as well as an array of colorful songbirds. The carvings range in size from a miniature hummingbird only an inch in length to the life-size Canada goose. Works in the exhibition have been generously loaned by sixteen private collectors as well as the Peabody Essex Museum and Heritage Museums and Gardens.
Decoy enthusiasts will be interested to see a carving marked with an as yet undocumented Crowell oval brand with serif letters.