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