LiveAuctionTalk.com Highlights Decoys at Auction in its Weekly Free Article Rosemary McKittrick brings the world of art, antiques and collectibles to life in her weekly column. Visit the site and sign up for a free weekly subscription.
News-Antique.com - Oct 12,2007 - Santa Fe, Oct. 12, 2007-- Humans are more easily fooled by decoys than birds are. That’s the joke among decoy collectors.
The work of master carver Elmer Crowell (1862-1951) just might be the exception. His work is housed in the collection of the Shelburne Museum.
Some say Crowell was the best carver ever. Maybe it was his passion for hunting. Maybe it was purely instinctive.
Whatever the reason, Crowell carved decoys that were so true to life they seemed like they were breathing. He was a master not only of carving and paint but also shading. He captured the subtleties. Prolific, versatile and consistent, that was Elmer Crowell.
As a young man he worked as a market gunner and cranberry farmer in Cape Cod, Mass.
He carved a few decoys early on but when he hunted himself he preferred using live decoys. That is, tame birds tethered so they fool their wild relatives.
Life changed for Crowell in 1900. He went to work for Dr. John C. Phillips, a wealthy Boston physician, managing his hunting camp at Wenham Lake, north of Boston.
Crowell worked for Phillips for almost ten years. During that time he sold a number of amazing one-of-a kind decoys and decorative carvings to Phillips and his friends.
He began carving decoys full-time in 1912 with miniature song and shorebirds. Crowell worked in a small shop outside his home in East Harwich, Mass. With help from his son Cleon (1891-1961), he also carved decorative pieces and miniatures.
Rheumatism forced his retirement in 1943.
Decoys may have started out as utilitarian objects but they’ve ended up as works of art. Just ask collectors.
On April 26 & 27, 2007, Guyette & Schmidt featured its annual spring North American Decoys at Auction held this year in St. Charles, Ill. The auction featured Elmer Crowell decoys. A feeding Dust Jacket Style Plover; circa 1890s sold for $260,000.
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