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Arthur Putnam

 (1873 - 1930)
Arthur Putnam was active/lived in California, Mississippi / France.  Arthur Putnam is known for wild animal sculpture, figural.

Arthur Putnam

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Arthur Putnam
The following biography, submitted February 2007, is from George Putnam Jr., son of the artist.

Arthur Putnam was born in Waveland, Mississippi and spent most of his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska.  At a very young age, Putnam manifested a natural talent for drawing and modeling clay.  He was a rebellious youth but was not shy of hard work, and at sixteen worked the riverboats and managed to keep up many odd jobs.  Later, he would soon settle with his widowed mother on a ranch in San Diego County, California.
In 1894 he was accepted as an assistant in the sculpture studio of Rupert Schmid.  He worked in other studios as well including the studio of animal sculptor Edward Kemeys, the studio of painter Gottardo Piazzoni, the studio of sculptor Earl Cummings, and with many architectural firms within the city of San Francisco.

Though a naturally talented artist, Putnam furthered his abilities and attended drawing classes at the San Francisco Art Students League.  To support his studies, he worked in a slaughter house, the Lincoln terra cotta works modeling tiles, later as a ranch hand, surveyors crew, and as a trapper of pumas for the San Francisco Zoo.
In 1899, Arthur Putnam married Grace Story Putnam (designer of the famous Baby Bi Lo Doll) and settled in San Francisco.
By 1901 he had established his reputation, and in addition to modeling a prodigious number of animal and human figures, he obtained commissions from San Francisco for a series of lamp posts on market street depicting the western theme " the winning of the west ".  The many lamp posts --- with each one holding part of a story in bronze--- remain saved and beloved in the city to this day.
Putnam worked with the well-known architect Willis Polk on many buildings, and a major commission to provide a series of large scale figures for the San Diego estate of E.W. Scripps.  These commissions would be highlights of his career involving the hire of many artisans and apprentice workers.  Today, the large-scale bronze figures are located in the parks and missions of San Diego county.
In 1905, Putnam moved to the romantic city of Paris, where he could continue the development of his craft and where his bronze sculptures were cast at the Alexis Rudier Foundry.  He exhibited his works in the salons of Rome and Paris and received acclaim and praise of sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Returning to San Francisco after the great earth quake, he modeled many architectural commissions, created many new sculptures in his studio and at this busy time in his career, built his own foundry.  This is not well known, but he made a thunderous effort to bring back the old wax method of casting called "ciere perdue ".  Putnam knew the foundry business well, and cast his own bronzes in his own studio and kiln during this period.  Though they have no foundry stamps, they have his signature, and remain some of the finest bronzes made.  This period was an artistic success and he sold many bronze castings in New York to the Macbeth Galleries and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Arthur Putnam had won many victories through his love of art and his intense working standards he set for himself.  But tragedy struck in 1911, at the height of his fame and some of his largest commissions.  He was struck down by a brain tumor that crippled his hands and ended his career.  With the gift of sculpture torn from him, Arthur Putnam suffered and eventually fell from grace until his death in Paris in 1930.  


Worked and assisted in studio of sculptor Rupert Schmid.- 1890
Studied at the San Francisco Art Students League. - 1894
Worked and assisted in studio with animal sculptor Edward kemeys.- 1896
Worked in studio with painter Gottardo Piazzoni. - 1897
Worked in studio with sculptor Earl Cummings. - 1899

1932, Julie Heyneman Arthur Putnam - Sculptor, Johnck & Seeger, 191 pages

Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco, California
Metropolitan Museum, New York, New York
San Diego Fine Art Museum, San Diego, California

Exhibition record (museums, institutions and awards):
Legion of Honor Museum - San Francisco 1921.
Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York - 1910.
San Diego Fine Frt Museum - 1921.
Parks of San Diego - 1903.

Exhibition Record (galleries and art shows):
Salons of Paris - 1904
Salons of Rome - 1904
Winning of the West - Market Street - Path of Gold - San Francisco. 1905
Macbeth Gallery - New York - 1906
Artist statements:

"Having to stay with the work grows on one's soul, and stamps those who have no outside resource of mind ".
"Advice poorly given is rarely well received ".
"It is foolish to say that your ideals are so high that you could not fall.  He that has height has depth - things must have proportion ".
"Pride enters into all things - we are of value to the world only for what we leave behind ".
" Whether you are satisfied or not, there comes a time when you must deliver the goods ".

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Arthur Putnam
Arthur Putnam is known as a sculptor who became famous for his cast bronze animals. He became famous for his renditions of the animals he observed in his life including pumas, bears, coyotes and mountain lions, and he had a deep understanding of animal anatomy that started in his childhood when he had studied the skeletons of animals.

Putnam was born when his parents made a journey through Waveland, Mississippi in 1873. His father, a member of a prominent New England family, made a living as a civil engineer in the South after the Civil War, which meant the family had an itinerant existence. The father died in 1880, leaving young Arthur Putnam, age seven to be raised by his mother and aunt in Omaha, Nebraska.

In his early youth he was not interested in school but was an intelligent boy. His mother tried to curb his discipline problems by sending him to the Kemper Hall Military Academy, but he only lasted a year there. Instead of pushing for him to go to school, his mother decided he should work. Putnam took a job as an elevator boy and worked in a photoengraving office where he learned the basics of drawing. Eventually the family moved west to California where Mrs. Putnam bought a lemon ranch in San Diego. Putnam spent most of his teenage years working on the ranch and sketching the wildlife of the Southwest. He also trapped pumas for the San Diego Zoo.

In 1894 he went to San Francisco to see the Mid-Winter Fair, and he stayed to take art lessons from Julie Heyneman at the Art Students League. Living at the ASL, he slept on the couch, sweeping the rooms in return for lodging. He dreamt of getting a job to support his art study and even worked briefly at a slaughterhouse while working for Rupert Schmid.

In 1898 Putnam returned to San Diego, where he was a surveyor for the building of the Mesa Dam. He also met his future wife, Grace Storey, at the San Diego Art School. He made a short trip to Chicago, around 1898, to study and work for Edward Kemeys, but returned to marry Storey in 1899. Putnam and his new wife settled in San Francisco where he and a friend, Bruce Porter, promoted his artwork as did former teacher, Julie Heyneman. (Later she wrote a biography about Putman titled "Desert Cactus".) He shared a studio space in San Francisco with Earl Cummings and Gottardo Piazzoni. Putnam's work improved and gained recognition by the early 1900s, and it was between 1900 and 1905 that he did the work for which he is most recognized.

In 1905 Putnam, his wife, and daughter traveled to Paris where he exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1906. He saw the work of the famous sculptor Rodin and was greatly inspired by his realistic/impressionist style. And in turn, Rodin is said to have described Putnam as the "world's greatest animal sculptor". (Hughes 904).

InPutnams returned from Paris in 1906 to a San Francisco including his studio destroyed by the great earthquake. They lived in a tent near Cliff House and eventually built a house on the outskirts of the city, near Ocean Beach. In 1916, when the city was rebuilding, his sculptures of lions and pioneers were used along Market Street.

In 1911 the sculpting career of Arthur Putnam ended as a result of paralysis after he underwent brain surgery. He was still able to draw but would never recapture the skill he once had. To ease his pain and frustration, he turned to alcohol, which drove away his wife and children, and in 1921, he returned to France where he lived until his death in Paris on May 27, 1930.

Over his career he exhibited at the Oakland Museum (1978), the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (1930, 1932, 1940, 1956, 1958), the Rome Salon (1906), and at the San Francisco Museum of Art (1935).

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Arthur Putnam
Mr. Putnum shared a studio,with Earl Cummings of San Francisco, CA (a well known sculptor in San Francisco and San Diego areas). Arthur gave several of his casts to Earl. They were good buddies. 

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About  Arthur Putnam

Born:  1873 - Waveland, Mississippi
Died:   1930 - Paris, France
Known for:  wild animal sculpture, figural