Before photography, wildlife art captured the history of wildlife in specific areas, chronicled exploration and travel, and illustrated popular sporting game. In recent history, wildlife art is used to illustrate the beauty of animals and their vegetation while also often bringing attention to endangered species and conservation issues.
The St. Louis Fall Auction on October 8 will include a collection of wildlife art from the Saint Louis Zoo Association. The collection is comprised of 39 works of art by artists such as John Christopher Bell, Peter Markham Scott, Axel Amuchastegui, Keith Shackleton, Terance James Bond, Raymond Harris Ching, Basil Ede, Roger Tory Peterson, Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe, and Joseph Wolf.
“We are delighted at the opportunity to work with the Saint Louis Zoo Association on this fantastic collection of wildlife art,” says Kara Kelpe, director of business development for Leslie Hindman Auctioneers’ St. Louis office. “Since opening our St. Louis office in 2014, we have been committed to recognizing the rich history of art in this city and to promoting locally significant collections within our community as well as exposing them to a broader international audience.”
JOHN CHRISTOPHER BELL
British artist John Christopher Bell (1823-1892) painted sporting game, in the tradition of early wildlife art. Bell frequently depicted birds, focusing on both the details of their figures and the environments they inhabited. In his 1860 oil Ptarmigans, Bell illustrates how, with changing seasons, ptarmigans’ feathers molt to coincide with their shifting environment, camouflaging them to hunters. The mottled brown of the feathers resembles the highlighted browns and whites of the rocks upon which they sit. Bell captured the birds in their relaxed state before predators would attack.
SIR PETER MARKHAM SCOTT
One of the highlighted artists in the Saint Louis Zoo Association collection, Sir Peter Markham Scott (1909-1989) was a British conservationist and artist. Scott studied both art and zoology at Cambridge and spent much of his traveling and studying birds. His conservation roots led him to help establish the World Wildlife Fund in 1960 to protect and preserve endangered species and their habitats. Scott’s love of birds, particularly geese, can be seen in much of his work. In Honkers Flighting Down River at Dusk, 1978, Scott’s study of geese is evident in the graceful and realistic curves in the wings as the geese descend to the river.
British artist Basil Ede (b. 1931) has been involved with the conservation and preservation of birds, especially in North American. In 1971, Jack Warner commissioned The Wild Birds of America series, in which Ede was to paint every species of wild bird in North America. Although Ede was not able to record all 650 species, he did complete 95 between 1975 and 1989. Ede was interested in studying birds specifically, rather than their environment. As such, many of Ede’s works do not include much of a background but instead attempt to draw more attention to the details of the bird’s features. For instance, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, 1974 shows every line in the woodpecker’s feathers and the bark on the tree but shows no other reference to the bird’s environment.
Largely featured in the collection is Argentinean artist Axel Amuchastegui (1921-2002). Not known for his conservation interests, Amuchastegui instead studied and illustrated wildlife around the world, focusing on the animals as found in their natural environments. Both Rabbit, 1983 and Rock Hyrax exemplify Amuchastegui’s detailed and realistic rendering of wildlife. Amuchastegui brought attention to the beauty of wildlife and their surrounding landscape.