DescriptionHENRY MERWIN SHRADY (American, 1871-1922)
Bull Moose, circa 1900
Bronze with brown patina
20-1/4 inches (51.4 cm) high
Inscribed along base: H.M. SHRADY / Roman Bronze Works N-Y- / Copyright by / T.B. Starr
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF JUDSON C. AND NANCY SUE BALL
T. Tolles, ed., American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume II: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born Between 1865 and 1885, New York, 2001, pp. 544-45, no. 243, another example illustrated.
Strange that so few ever come to the woods to see how the pine lives and grows and spires, lifting its evergreen arms to the light, - to see its perfect success; but most are content to behold it in the shape of many broad boards brought to market, and deem that its true success! . . . Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine-trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it (Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods, 1864).
By the 1870s, only several years after Henry David Thoreau made this eloquent plea for the preservation of the New England woods, the moose population between New York and Maine had dwindled to near extinction. During the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries, the northeastern moose had provided Native Americans with meat and leather for moccasins and decorative objects. Yet due to over-hunting and deforestation in this region, the moose had become little more than a mythical symbol of the virgin wilderness.
The native New Yorker Henry Shrady was certainly aware of ideological power of the moose, in its association with the growing U.S. conservation movement, when he sculpted Bull Moose in 1900. Essentially self-taught as an artist, Shrady had studied law at Columbia University and, on the side, learned animal anatomy in biology classes and on sketching trips to the Zoological Gardens in the Bronx Zoo. Even more remarkable, Bull Moose, with its adept rendering of musculature, fur, and facial features, was one of his very first sculptures, cast in the same year as Empty Saddle and Elk Buffalo. The New York jeweler Theodore B. Starr helped jumpstart Shrady's art career by selling these bronzes in his Fifth Avenue gallery. Bull Moose and Elk Buffalo soon attracted the attention of Karl Bitter, the director of sculpture for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, who hired Shrady to make enlarged plaster versions (9' and 8', respectively) for a bridge at the fairground. Shrady collaborated for six weeks with Bitter at his studio in Weehawken, New Jersey, and completed a total of eight monumental animal sculptures for the project.
Shrady spent much of his short career executing large-scale military and equestrian statues, notably the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Nonetheless, his animal bronzes, particularly the lone and proud Bull Moose, remain his most popular and memorable works. Other casts of Bull Moose are featured in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and the R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, Louisiana. "According to [Metropolitan] Museum records, Riccardo Bertelli of the Roman Bronze Works viewed this sculpture on September 29, 1939, and said that 'not more than twenty examples of it had been cast'" (T. Tolles, ed., American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume II: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born Between 1865 and 1885, New York, 2001, p. 545).
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