Ruminations on the Art and Literature of Rare Natural History from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries: a compendium of fine Copperplate and Wood Engravings, Rare Books, Letterpress Printing and fine Nature Prose at Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books, ABAA. Please visit us at www.lowryjames.com
Friday, September 19, 2014
Charles Livingston Bull
Charles Livingston Bull
The preeminent wildlife painter of early twentieth century America, Charles Livingston Bull was a private, reserved artist,
and gentleman. Analytical in nature and informed by his training and practice
as a taxidermist early in his career,
CL Bull became a reclusive artist who exuded a soulful grace which
emanated from a lifetime of attuned observation, contemplation and subsequent depiction of the character and motion of all creatures albeit bird or beast.
Not inclined to self reflection yet
without exception he certainly would not have accepted the
contemporary levels of personal invasion- and misaligned criticism, critique and judgment which has become the pervasive norm for any public figure-
literary, artistic or otherwise.
Although Bull was a private unassuming artist- working
from the privacy of his two acre animal filled compound on the outskirts of New York City- he was not
ungracious to those with less or no artistic talent. Perhaps this was his secret, and his inherent gift.
Bull's uncompromising personal integrity speaks
to a dignity recognized in old souls- those with the quiet gifts of a still temperament;
an artistic temperament, and an unwavering moral code; a quality which is much
reflected in his ability to render the integrity of the beast as witnessed in the
elegant grace of teal’s flight or the majesty of the Ram in repose, or the boundary
established by the Rooster’s stance or haunting tension of the hunter in
pursuit of his prey.
As a painter and illustrator working in the first quarter of the twentieth century
Charles Livingston Bull’s oeveure was impressive; illustrating for
publications such as Saturday Evening Post, McClure’s, The Country Gentleman,
and the nature stories by the writers Jack London, Sir Charles Roberts, William J.
Long and others with an estimated over 7000 images in nearly 150 books and
articles, as well as paintings for advertising and propaganda posters, both commercial
Yet despite his
artistic foot print, and quite possibly due to his solitary nature, Bull holds
a regrettably minor place in the pantheon of literature of the lives of the
American Illustrator in the Twentieth Century.
Influenced by the traditions of Japanese woodblock prints
and the English Aesthetic; The Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, and particularly the bold yet sinuous drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, Bull
established an attractive style of linear and tonal compositions, and as book illustrations were an appreciated
precursor to the Golden Age of American Illustration which was ushered in by the talents of his friend and colleague N.C. Wyeth as well as Maxfield Parrish, Jessie Willcox Smith and J.C. Leyendecker, and others.
CL Bull's monochromatic style
of rendering the animal in the natural setting with charcoal and ink on paper-
the perfect medium for the reproduction as a halftone for book illustration - all but
established illustrated wildlife writing and the illustrated animal story as
the most popular genre of the early twentieth century, and CL Bull was the chosen animal illustrator for many writers.
Every popular magazine of the day would
contain at least one illustrated animal story, much in thanks to appeal of CL Bull's
work.Despite Bull’s influence on this culture, his
illustrations were never subordinate to the text.His refined style displays the finest attributes
of the aesthetic, and not simply the narrative, yet not void of the pathos or
mystery of the tales of the hunter and the hunted.
He was an illustrator of the highest rank, in the highest demand,
yet his artistic aspirations and abilities were loftier, and thankfully were expressed
in his elegant original compositions. His work is now held in the permanent collections of the Brandywine Museum, the Glenbow Museum, Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum and the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
At Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books we have collected the work of this most under-appreciated artist Charles Livingston Bull for some
years now and are pleased to offer a fine selection of his work, including six
original charcoal and ink drawings from his Rochester, NY period- as well as the only book both written and illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull and the nature stories
of others, and scarce original poster art.
We hope you enjoy the introduction to
Charles Livingston Bull, and our offerings.