Friday, May 1, 2020

Six SAA Artists Active for Six Decades

     This month I'm featuring SAA members from the first decade of the Society who are still active members today. The Society has seen a lot of change over the past 60 years, and it's been interesting to take a look back in time while reading about the history and hearing stories from our longstanding members, who are truly gems! So without further ado, here are some wonderful stories and insights from these very special SAA members.

~  Doug Allen  ~
 
Doug standing with his painting"Power Of One"
     
For Doug Allen, a favorite memory with the SAA was attending his first SAA meeting while being surrounded by the likes of Paul Bransom, John Clymer, Bob Lougheed, Bob Kuhn, Francis Lee Jaques, Louis Paul Jonas, and others. He remembers when artists had to submit their original artworks for the jury process. 

"Breaking Trail" by Doug Allen

A word of advice Doug would share with our newer SAA members, would be an adage from artist Paul Bransom  “If you can’t experience studying animals in the wild then go to your local zoo and draw, draw, draw.” Out of all the pieces Doug has exhibited with the SAA, his favorite piece was a painting done in 1985 of a bison entitled “Early Winter”. When asked what’s the biggest change he's seen in the art world since becoming an SAA member, he answered simply with, “It’s a puzzlement”.

~  Guy Coheleach  ~


     A favorite memory for Guy Coheleach with the SAA was how they used to make their chain-smoking president, Joe Vance, go out on the roof of the 6th floor to smoke his cigarettes, which was just outside where the rest of them held their monthly meetings at the Salmagundi Club. Sometimes after a particularly long meeting, they would have dinner at the Giraffe Restaurant located in mid-town. These Board members constantly showed up month after month, year after year in the sixties and seventies through all kinds of weather topped with New York commuting and traffic conditions. This was during a time when a handful of dedicated people kept a very fragile SAA from disappearing. Another fond memory for Guy associated with fellow SAA members was a fun incident that took place in the middle of the African bush when some rangers came walking up with a few books for Bob Kuhn and Guy to sign, and one of them had an SAA catalog!

"Snowy Owl Chase" by Guy Coheleach

Although it’s not his favorite piece, Guy's very fond of  “Siberian Chase”, an impressionistic painting of a tiger running in the snow. This painting finally freed him commercially from all of the meticulous detail he thought so necessary in years prior. Since becoming an SAA member, the biggest change Guy has seen in the art world is that too many works now look like photographs. His word of advice to our newer SAA members would be "I think if a person loves what they do and are not afraid of hard work they have to succeed.” 

"Snowy Egrets" by Guy Coheleach

~  Albert Earl Gilbert  ~


     SAA member Albert Earl Gilbert was elected as First Vice President shortly after becoming an SAA member and recalls what a great experience it was meeting Paul Bransom, Doug Allen, Pat Bott, John Clymer, and so many great artists at the Salmagundi Club in New York City, during which time he made numerous lifelong friendships. In 1974, Paul Bransom asked Albert to stay after an SAA meeting, where he told him, “Gil, try not to live into your 80s and outlive all your friends as I have now doneAnd another thing, don’t ever get shingles, which I have now, but I’m hoping to recover from. Meanwhile, I want you to become Acting President of the SAA and take charge of all meetings until I can return.”  Albert had no ambition to do that; however, when Paul chose him, he gladly agreed.  Albert did this for several years, and Paul gradually recovered. Given his health, Paul couldn't remain as President though, so he nominated Albert to become the SAA President, which he was from 1977 to 1984. 

"Cheetahs At Waterhole" by Albert Earl Gilbert

During Albert's presidency, the SAA established the first Annual Exhibition and Convention in March 1979 at the Explorer’s Club. Explorer Club member, Guy Coheleach, arranged for the speakers to give their presentations at this famous venue. Those who spoke were Roger Tory Peterson, Robert Bateman, Guy Coheleach, and Dick LeMaster. All SAA Annual Exhibitions were held at major venues such as the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Blauvelt Museum of Art. He goes on to say how Guy Coheleach did so much work behind the scenes to promote the success of the SAA, and that many, many others also gave of their time and energy. Albert says that it’s hard to believe there were over 150 artists back then while recalling so many good memories, being glad he was there to participate.

"Egrets In Cypress" by Albert Earl Gilbert

~  George L. Schelling  ~


     SAA member George Schelling’s favorite times with the SAA were spent at the meetings and show openings. He knew many of the members back in the 60s and recalls what great times they all had to talk about art.  He’s sure he would enjoy the same wonderful camaraderie today, but traveling is harder now that he’s older. George loves that in this digital age with the internet allowing everything to be online, he can enjoy “visiting” museums that he’d never get to see in person.

"Sharks" by George Schelling
     
     These two members were unable to respond to my questions, so I am featuring one of their paintings featured in past SAA Annual Exhibitions. The SAA is especially indebted to Nancy for recently sending our office a treasure trove of historical documents pertaining to the Society.

~  Nancy Halliday  ~

"Moonlight Snack" by Nancy Halliday

~  John A. Ruthven  ~

"Elegant Hawk Eagle" by John A. Ruthven
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Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

60 Years of SAA Exhibitions

The Best Laid Plans ...

One thing constant in life is change, so along those lines, I've had to change the content line-up I had planned for the next couple of blog posts. Because of the COVID 19 virus, we've had to cancel our upcoming 60th Annual Exhibition for the Society of Animal Artists. So this month I've decided to interview the SAA Executive Director Wes Siegrist (AKA my husband) about the history of SAA Exhibitions.
Emily Kapes, Curator of Art and Wes Siegrist, SAA Executive Director at the 58th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art.

How many exhibitions have been held by the SAA?

Well, I would first have to clarify exhibitions. Since 1979, the SAA had considered our Annual Exhibition as our main event. Prior to 1979, they hosted a members' show each year. Alongside these, there have been various regional shows as well as touring venues derived from the earlier members' shows or later Annual Exhibitions. I'd also have to say we have a few early years with no historical records but all together, the Society has held at least 246 exhibitions. We also have nine additional upcoming exhibitions under contract.

How many different states have exhibitions been held?

From the SAA archives, at least 38 States have hosted SAA exhibitions. Additionally, the SAA exhibited internationally in Canada in 1995 and England in 2017.

SAA 1980 Exhibition/Convention, San Antonio, TX

How many artists have participated in exhibitions over the years?

SAA archives mostly just track the early member shows and later Annual Exhibitions so that's the only number I can be accurate stating. We are also missing records for 1960-1963. We know at least 863 different artists have participated in the SAA's main exhibitions. It would be well over a thousand total including all shows. Today, SAA exhibitions are members only. In the past, there were some guest artists and works featured from deceased artists of historical note.

How are shows now different than shows from the early days?

I could talk for a long time here! Guess I'll just limit it to saying in the old days, we had no jury (or a more lenient jury), we hung prints along with originals, and we allowed more than one work from each artist. All of these have changed now. We started with awards in 1979 and have gradually tightened our juries, judging, and overall policies. It should be noted that our membership grew significantly some years until our membership jury also became more strict. We've averaged about 500 members for the last decade which means getting into an exhibition with limited space is always a challenge!

SAA 1980 Exhibition/Convention, San Antonio, TX

Since you've recently spent time in the SAA archives, was there anything that you found especially interesting?

1. At least 17 different members have exhibited in 30 or more of our Annual Exhibitions! The top five in ascending order are Sue Westin (35), Kent Ullberg (36), George L. Schelling (37), Marilyn Newmark (42) and Guy Coheleach (48)!

2.  The SAA didn't start jurying our exhibitions until 1976. We had a smaller membership back then and members were encouraged to just submit their best work. The SAA Board required any show officially sponsored by the SAA to be juried starting in 1983.

3. The SAA added two new categories of membership starting in 2010. We recognized artists that have been juried into 15 or more annual exhibitions as "Distinguished Signature Members" and those who have received 5 or more Awards of Excellence as our "Master Signature Members".

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Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA




Sunday, March 1, 2020

Highlighting SAA Inaugural Members of 1960

Since we're celebrating the Society of Animal Artists 60th Anniversary this year, this month we continue with more history pertaining to the beginning years of the organization. In addition to the SAA Founders Patricia Allen (Bott) and Gudio Borghi, all of these artists listed below were inaugural members of the Society. The SAA archives currently lack records from 1960-1963, so there could be a few more artists that were active starting in 1960. Members starting in 1958 were part of the Animals in Bronx Zoo exhibition, which was the inspiration for founding the SAA two years later. Most of these members remained active with the SAA until their death.

(Photos of the artist's artwork shown below their paragraph)

Anna Hyatt Huntington (1960-1973) ~ Called the 3rd SAA member by Founder Patricia Allen, she was one of the foremost female artists of her time, known worldwide for her sculptures ranging in size from the miniature to the heroic, with her Joan of Arc statue located in NYC, perhaps the most famous. She, along with husband Archer Huntington, founded Brookgreen Gardens in 1931. Anna was active in the SAA leadership until 1973, serving as the Society’s 1st Vice-President, and was also a member of the National Academy of Design. 


Paul Bransom (1958-1979) ~ He was active in the SAA leadership until 1978 and served as one of the Society’s Presidents as well as on the membership jury. For several years Paul did much of his early work in a studio located inside the Bronx Zoo, a rare privilege indeed! He illustrated over 40 books of wildlife and animal stories, as well as hundreds of animal stories for numerous national magazines.



Joseph Boulton (1958-1981) ~ He was a sculptor, painter, teacher, and taxidermist, and studied at the National Academy of Design. He spent his childhood days working on ranches in Texas, so he could get the first-hand experience for doing western subjects and American Indians in art. He learned much about anatomy while caring for sick or injured animals and nursing them back to health.



Gardell Dano Christensen (1960-1991) ~ He was active in the SAA leadership until his death in 1991. He began working at the American Museum of Natural History at the age of 19. Several years later, he represented the museum in a year-long expedition to collect animals for the Akeley African Hall, from Africa. He was the first American artist to paint an okapi from life whilst in the Belgium Congo. He also illustrated and wrote several books.



Brenda Frey (1958-1966) ~ She was active in the SAA leadership until 1965, serving as the Society’s Treasurer and Secretary. Spending numerous hours as a young girl drawing and painting animals at a nearby city zoo, she became intrigued by the movement of the animals. The circus gave her a pass to paint behind the scenes for many years, where she painted many famous animals and clowns.



Harry L. Hoffman (1958-1964) ~ He specialized in brightly colored impressionistic paintings of marine life. While in the Bahamas, he developed a special bucket with a glass bottom that allowed him to clearly see the marine life below. He was also a member of the National Academy of Design.



Elizabeth Rungius Fulda (1958-1968) ~ She was active in the SAA leadership until 1967, serving as the Society’s first President as well as on the membership jury. At age 14, she began painting lessons from her brother Carl Rungius. She sketched from nature at her neighbor's large farms and in her own barnyard. Later on, she drew animals in the Berlin Zoological Garden, before moving to the United States in 1905, where she continued her animal studies in the Bronx Zoo, under her brother Carl's guidance.



Ugo Mochi (1958-1977) ~ He was active in the SAA leadership until 1972, serving as one of the Society’s Vice-Presidents.  Hailed as "a triumph for the ingenuity of human finger" in a London publication, Ugo was the greatest living exponent of shadows in outline and specialized in silhouettes typically from cut paper. after sketching a rough outline on white paper, he used a double-edged knife cut away from around the pencil lines, producing a beautiful, detailed and accurate design. His artworks were used as illustrations for numerous books.



Lloyd Sanford (1958-1971) ~ He was the art editor of the New Jersey Audubon Society, an illustrator for college‐level zoological texts and an illustrator of a variety of nature and animal books. As the staff artist for the New York Zoological Society, Lloyd produced over 4,000 paintings before his death, when he was tragically killed in a car accident.



Joel Stolper (1958-1964) ~ He specialized in illustrating and writing children’s books.  He also liked to draw the animals from life at the Bronx Zoo.  One of his illustrated books was "My Trip to the Zoo: A Visit to the New York Zoological Park".



Clarence Tillenius (1960-2012) ~ He was active in the SAA leadership until 1989, serving as one of the Society’s Western Representatives. Specializing in paintings, he did illustrations for nature and wildlife magazines for many years and was also particularly known for his work on dioramas, including those in the National Museum of Canada.



Clement Weisbecker (1958-1964) ~ He was particularly known for illustrations in comics including Betty & Veronica of Archie Comics, Captain America of Marvel Comics, and Lance O'Casey of Fawcett Comics.  In the comic world, he was known as "Clem". He loved to draw animals from life at the Bronx Zoo and was equally adept as a painter.


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We want to welcome the SAA's newest Patron member ~ America West Frames!  




Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA



Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Founders Of The Society Of Animal Artists


Guido R. Borghi (1903-1971)             Patricia Allen Bott (1912-1994)
In 1958, Patricia Allen (Bott) and Guido Borghi assembled an exhibition of fellow artists that regularly met at the Bronx Zoo in New York City to sketch and paint the animals from life. The exhibition, Animals In Bronx Zoo, was a resounding success with the public. As a result of this enthusiasm, Patricia and Guido decided to form an organization of likeminded artists for fellowship, encouragement, and exhibition opportunities at Burr Galleries,  as well as other NYC venues.



Pat gave the fledgling society her all, and like a mother hen, she carefully nurtured relationships with each of the artists. For the first few decades, it was Pat that produced all the newsletters and replied to almost all correspondence. She also worked at the prestigious Grand Central Art Gallery, which exposed her to professional animal and wildlife artists beneficial in building the Society of Animal Artists  (SAA) membership.  


The initial shows of the SAA were held at Burr Galleries (Founded by Pat's father) pictured above and below. The first exhibition in 1960 was sponsored by the Bronx Zoo.



Due to the high cost of rent, exhibitions were moved to Grand Central Art Galleries starting in 1964, which contributed to the continued growth, exposure and prestige of the Society. Pat arranged the traveling shows for the SAA from 1960 to 1972 and served on the SAA Board the remainder of her life, including positions as Secretary, and Treasurer.


Two of Pat's field sketches from Africa


Pat received little to no formal training in art. She was heavily influenced by her father, George Brainerd Burr's impressionistic style with bold brushstrokes and color. She continued to enjoy working from life at the Bronx Zoo during her lifetime, where she also served for a time as a volunteer, even having a cub at the zoo named after her.



Like Pat, Guido was inspired and taught by his father. Living nearby, he also loved to draw and sculpt animals from life at the Bronx Zoo. He was adept at oil painting including murals, he taught sculpture and painting and had his work featured in museum exhibitions around the United States.  


Two of Guido's sketches



Special thanks to historical information provided by Harriet E. Phillips (SAA Secretary 2005) and research provided by SAA Executive Director Wes Siegrist from the Society's archives.

I'm looking forward to sharing more historical insights about the SAA over the coming months celebrating our 60th Anniversary!



Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Society Of Animal Artists Celebrates 60 Years


SAA artists at the 1980 Exhibition/Convention in San Antonio, TX

This year is an exciting one for the Society of Animal Artists! Founded in 1960, the organization will celebrate its 60th Anniversary this year, so I thought it a perfect time to take a look back in time. Below are several different photos from the past of current and late SAA members and their works. I challenge you to take a close look at each one and see if you can guess the mystery artist. The correct answers are located at the bottom of the blog post, so you can see how well you did. 

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The mystery artist is the gentleman on the left
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The mystery artist is the gentleman standing on the left

1. Wayne Trimm
2. John Ruthven
3. George Luther Schelling
4. The late Richard Sloan
5. Al Gilbert
6. Guy Coheleach

So . . . How did you do? I'm looking forward to sharing many more interesting photos and facts about the SAA's rich history, as well as our founding members, with you in future posts throughout this year, as we celebrate our 60 years in the making!


Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA