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

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Hearts Of The Society of Animal Artists

Although the organizational body of the Society of Animal Artists currently has over 500 members from around the world, it's the SAA Presidents that are the real heart of the organization. In 1958, a group of artistic friends that regularly gathered to paint and sketch the animals at the Bronx Zoo decided to hold an exhibition highlighting their work rendered from the zoo. The public reaction to the exhibition at Burr Galleries was overwhelmingly positive. So much so, two of the friends decided it was time to form an organization to continue upon the success and promote the genre of wildlife art. They founded the Society of Animal Artists in 1960. 

From the inspiration of the founders to the present day, the SAA has been guided by nine dedicated individuals, who have graciously set aside their personal ambitions to focus on helping their fellow artists. I'm sharing with you a little bit about each one of these special people below. and have been fortunate to personally know six of them and experience their warm personalities and dedication to the SAA.

Patrica Allen Bott & Guido Borghi (Founders) 1958-1960

From March 30th through April 12th, 1958 "Animals In Bronx Zoo" featured the works of Walter Addison, Patricia Allen (Bott), Joseph Bell, Rosa Bonheur, Guido Borghi, Joseph Boulton, Paul Bransom, Berta Briggs, Benda Frey, Elisabeth Rungius Fulda, Charles Hafner, Harry Hoffman, William R. Leigh N.A., Ugo Mochi, Carl Rungius, Lloyd Stolper, Nell Van Hook, Clement Weisbecher, Allen Williams, and William Wilson. Many of these artists were founding members of the Society.

Founder Guido Borghi was active on the SAA Board of Directors until the early 1970s. Founder Pat Bott was active until 1993, additionally serving as secretary and treasurer.

Elizabeth Rungius Fulda 1960

Painter Elisabeth Rungius Fulda served as president only one year but worked on the Board until 1967. She came to America in 1905 to join her brother Carl who had been living there for ten years. Under his guidance, she did artistic animal studies at the Bronx Zoo.

Paul Bransom 1961 – 1976

Painter Paul Bransom designed the SAA Catasus logo and served the SAA until 1978. Paul enjoyed the rare privilege of a studio at the Bronx Zoo where he did much of his early work.

Albert Earl Gilbert 1977 – 1983

Painter Albert Earl Gilbert worked with the SAA board from 1974 until 1985. In addition to being the president, he also served as a vice-president for the SAA. Albert exhibited in 17 SAA Annual Exhibitions.  He would have been the first to be recognized as a Distinguished Signature Member.  A designation later adopted by the Society to recognize those artists whose work was juried into 15 or more Annual Exhibitions.

Joseph Vance, Jr. 1984 – 1994

Joe Vance was a painter who began serving with the SAA Board in the 1970s. He was active until 2015 when he graciously became an Emeritus Board member to make room for others. He continued to give advice and was valuable to the SAA with his foresight to save our historical documents. Joe also served as a treasurer for the SAA. He was the first SAA president to receive an Award of Excellence (the SAA's highest artistic honor). Joe was a Distinguished Signature Member having exhibited in 30 Annual Exhibitions. He was additionally recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2005 for his years of devoted service to the SAA and a lifetime of achievement in the genre of animal art.

Charles Allmond, III 1995 – 2000

Sculptor Charles Allmond worked with the SAA Board from 1991 to 2012. Charles received seven awards including six Awards of Excellence in the SAA Exhibitions.  He was the first and only SAA president to have the honor of Master Signature Member bestowed upon him. He was additionally honored to be recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2007.  Like his predecessor Joe, Charles exhibited in 30 Annual Exhibitions and was also a Distinguished Signature Member.

Francis Sweet 2001 – 2003

Fran specializes in scratchboard and was active with the SAA Board from 1999 to 2003. Fran worked with current Executive Director Wes Siegrist to create the SAA's first website in 2001. He received seven awards in SAA Exhibitions including four Awards of Excellence. He was recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2007 and also achieved Distinguished Signature Member exhibiting in 21 Annual Exhibitions.

Leslie Delgyer 2004 – 2008

Leslie is known for her pastels and served on the SAA Board from 1988 until 2015. In addition to being president, Leslie served a long time as an assistant secretary and later as secretary to the Board.  She also exhibited in 15 Annual Exhibitions and achieved Distinguished Signature Membership.

Diane Mason 2008 – 2013

Diane works both in sculpture and scratchboard and has served on the SAA Board since 2005. In addition to being president, she has served as vice-president and treasurer, where she still currently serves. Diane has received two awards in SAA exhibitions for her sculpture and graciously sponsored awards for years. Diane's husband Bob, became the SAA's first Executive Director in 2010. They both maintain the SAA's financial stability.

Reneé Bemis 2014 – to Present

Reneé specializes in bronze sculpture and has worked with the SAA Board since 1995.  She was our longest-serving treasurer prior to assuming her current role as president.  She has received three awards in SAA exhibitions and has graciously sponsored a purchase award with her husband, Brian, for many years. Reneé is a Distinguished Signature Member having exhibited in 25 Annual Exhibitions to date.

Altogether, over 100 people have served on the SAA Board representing close to 900 artists!   These amazing people highlighted above have not only held a diverse group of worldwide artists together,  but have inspired them to collectively achieve something better.  Without these few leaders, the SAA would never have become the world's foremost association of wildlife artists.  It's exciting to see what the future holds for the SAA, and we're excited about returning to our roots at the Bronx Zoo in 2020 as part of our 60th Annual Opening Weekend festivities!

Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Society of Animal Artists Video Highlights from the 59th Annual Exhibition

I've put together for you, a short video showcasing the many exciting highlights during the Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition opening weekend at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio, TX this past September. So if you weren't able to attend and join in on the fun, this is your chance to see what you missed!

This year the prestigious SAA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to most deserving SAA Distinguished Signature Member John Seerey-Lester! The award was given to him by SAA member Matthew Hillier, who gave a most informative and entertaining introduction for this amazingly talented artist.  Here's a video of Matthew's introduction and John's touching acceptance of this prized award. 

While several SAA members demonstrated during the weekend, as well as participated in talks and helped with the community mural project, a highlight was an interview with Master Signature Member, Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen. SAA member Terry Miller did a wonderful job interviewing Carel, delighting the audience with insights from Carel's creative process, while they also kept the audience laughing much of the time.  Here's an edited video showcasing highlights from Carel's delightful interview.

There are several other videos on the SAA YouTube channel as well for you to enjoy, and more will be added in the future.
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Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA