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Alexander Proctor

 (1860 - 1950)
Alexander Phimister Proctor was active/lived in New York, California, Ontario.  Alexander Proctor is known for life size animal and figure sculpture.

Alexander Proctor

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Alexander Proctor
Born in Ontario, Canada, Alexander Proctor became known primarily as a sculptor of life-size wild animals, especially ones inhabiting the West, although he also did pen and ink drawings, etchings, small oil paintings, and sculptures of historical subjects.

One of "the best-known monuments in the nation is the 'Pioneer Mother' monument in Kansas City" (Reynolds 220), which is Proctor's over-life size sculpture tribute to pioneer women. He often traveled into the Pacific Northwest for subject matter, and on one of his westward treks, the idea for this work came to him when he saw a trapper and a hunter walking beside a pioneer woman riding sidesaddle on a horse loaded with family belongings. The piece was commissioned by Kansas City businessman Howard Vanderslice who saw Proctor's preliminary sketches for the piece. To execute the work, Proctor took a large studio at the Academy in Rome, and "Pioneer Mother" was unveiled on November 11, 1927.

At age four, Proctor moved with his family from Canada to Iowa in a prairie schooner, and as a young man, did a lot of hunting and trapping in the western United States. In 1881, he first traveled to California. Six years later, he headed East for New York City to get art training and studied at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design, and then took further study in Paris at Academie Colarossi.

His travels in the West took him to the Rocky Mountains where he became a hunting friend of Major John Pitcher, who became superintendent of Yellowstone Park. In 1907, Pitcher was under pressure to decrease the cougar population of the Park. He rescued one of the cats, affectionately known as Yellowstone Pete, by sending it back to the Bronx in New York to Proctor whose studio was in a huge space that allowed him to work in large scale from live models. Proctor had Yellowstone Pete housed at the Bronx Zoo and then tried to model from him. But the cougar was so uncooperative that Proctor finally took the animal to his farm near Bedford, New York where Proctor was able to complete the sculpture, "Panther with Kill", 1907.

During most of his career, he had a studio in New York City, but from 1919, he also had one in Palo Alto, California, where he died at the home of his sister in 1950.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Peter Hassrick, Drawn to Yellowstone
Donald Martin Reynolds, Masters of American Sculpture

Biography from Red Fox Fine Art
Excerpt from Animal and Sporting Artists in America by F. Turner Reuter, Jr. © 2008:

Alexander Proctor was born in Bozanquit, Ontario, Canada, on 27 September 1862. His family moved to Des Moines, IA, in 1867, and again to Denver, CO, in 1871. He hunted and sketched in the Rocky Mountains through much of his childhood. In 1887 he went to New York City, where he studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League of New York with Lemuel Everett Wilmarth and James Carroll Beckwith; he also studied with John Rogers.

After exhibiting equestrian models of a cowboy and a Native American at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL in 1893 he went to Paris, France, where he studied with Jean-Antoine Injalbert, with Denis Puech at the Académie Julian and at the Académie Colarossi.  He made an intensive study of animal movement and anatomy, and was known to be particular in the selection of his models, both animal and human. He specialized in animal sculpture and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Western subjects, particularly Native Americans; he is also known to have executed dry point engravings of Western big game and other wild animals.

Theodore Roosevelt commissioned a pair of bison heads for the mantel of the White House state dining room. Proctor and the President were friends through their shared passion for wildlife conservation, and Proctor later executed a statue of Roosevelt as a Rough Rider for the city of Portland, OR.

In addition to his smaller bronzes, he was commissioned to model several monumental statues of Native Americans, cowboys, and Western animals throughout the United States, both by private individuals and by government institutions, including Depression-era commissions from the Treasury Department public art projects.

Proctor worked in New York City, having settled there after returning from Paris, where he and James Earle Fraser assisted Augustus Saint-Gaudens on models for the horses of the Sherman Monument in Central Park and the General Logan Monument in Grant Park, Chicago. He traveled extensively in the West after 1914; he was in Oregon, Idaho, and California for several years.

He was at the American Academy in Rome, Italy, from 1925 to 1927 as artist in residence, then went to Belgium in 1928. In the following year he returned once again to New York, maintaining a house in Wilton, CT. He traveled in the West again after 1936, finally settling in Palo Alto, CA. His last major work was Mustangs, a fifteen foot high monumental model of five wild mares, one stallion, and a foal, which was unveiled in 1948 at the Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas in Austin. His son, Gifford MacGregor Proctor was also a sculptor.

Proctor was a member of the National Academy of Design, the National Sculpture Society, the National Arts Club, the American Society of Animal Painters and Sculptors, the New York Architectural League, the Society of American Artists, and the American Watercolor Society, all in New York City.

He exhibited frequently at the National Academy of Design, where he showed models of a wide variety of animals such as Orangutans in 1902, Moose Family in 1905, and Puma in 1919, as well as Western subjects such as On the War Path in 1902, and Trapper and Indian in 1932. At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, he showed similar works, such as his Bruin at Home in 1890, Hound Eating in 1895, Indian Warrior in 1900 and Leaping Tarpon in 1909.

At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL, in 1893, Proctor and Edward Kemeys were honored with the commissions to execute models of American wild animals to decorate a number of the pavilions at the exposition. Proctor received medals for exhibits at the Paris Exposition of 1900; the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 in St. Louis, MO; the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, CA, in 1915; and others.

At the American Watercolor Society he showed such works as Rocky Mountain Sheep in 1901, Antelope in 1911 and Stag Elk in 1913. He also exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago (IL), the Boston (MA) Art Club, and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, SC, has his Trumpeting Elephant Silver King (Leaping Tarpon) 1907, and Pursued, a bronze of a Native American on a galloping horse.

At least three bridges in Washington, DC, bear his sculpture, notably the Q Street Bridge, which has four large bison. The Piney Branch Bridge bears four tigers, modeled in 1910; these were initially to be cast in concrete, but Proctor paid to have them done in bronze instead. His Panthers (Puma), a pair of monumental cats, flank the Third Street entrance to New York City's Prospect Park; his work is also in the Prospect Park Zoo. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has his Buffalo, Horse, Morgan Stallion, Fawn, and other works. His sculpture Riding Down Buffalo is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. The Portland (OR) Art Museum has his Lions; his Indian and Buffalo Group is at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and his Standing Bear and Rabbit is at the San Diego (CA) Museum of Art. Other institutions holding his work include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Carnegie Institute, the Brooklyn (NY) Museum, and the cities of Washington, DC; New York; and Portland, OR.

In 1997 Proctor's grandson, Phimister Proctor "Sandy" Church established the A. Phimister Proctor Museum in Poulsbo, WA, for the purpose of promoting an international exhibition of the artist's work and publishing a comprehensive book about his life and his art. The A. Phimister Proctor Museum has been marketing and selling posthumous limited-edition bronzes from some of Proctor's original lifetime plaster models as well as selected dry point engravings since 1997.

Proctor died in Palo Alto, CA, on 5 September 1950.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery

Alexander Phimister Proctor was born in Ontario Canada in 1862 to second generation pioneers. In the spring of 1871 the family moved to Denver, Colorado with the hope of prosperity. Exploring the Colorado Rockies with his father, Proctor developed a permanent interest in wildlife. Through studying and sketching specimens he developed a deep visual understanding of their artistic merits.

Proctor moved to New York in 1885 where he enrolled at the National Academy of Design and the Art Student's League. In 1887 he met the sculptor John Rodgers and under his tutelage took up the modeling of wild animals seriously. After several years of winter studies in New York and summer adventures in the mountains of Washington and Colorado, Proctor's plans were to return to New York. On his return he was intercepted by a telegram from Chicago inviting him there for what was to be his greatest opportunity.

In 1891 he arrived in Chicago to begin his newly commissioned work for the World's Colombian Exposition that was to open in 1893. He sculpted thirty-five life-size animals depicting those he hunted and studied in his mountain adventures. He also created two enormous equestrian sculptures. The work brought Proctor into the international spotlight and financial stability.

Seeking a more formal education he moved to Paris for a year and studied at the Julien Academy under the tutelage of Denys Puech. There his work won the admiration of Parisian art critics and Augustas Saint-Gauden.

Returning to the states, he began work on sculptures of General Logan and General Sherman for Saint-Gauden. In 1896 Proctor received the Rinehart Scholarship and was back in Paris for three years of study. His bronzes 'Stalking Panther' and 'The Indian Warrior' were exhibited at the Paris Exposition of Nineteen hundred and won him the Gold Medal. Proctor had as many commissions as he could handle. He often was overlapping them to satisfy his demand.

Over the course of his life he created a prodigious amount of art. His enthusiasm and love of life is seen in all his sculptures that can be found across the states and around the world.

Patricia Jarvis Broader, "Bronzes of the American West," Abrams, New York, 1974. Illustration of another example on page 114, plate 104.

Biography from Taylor | Graham
Alexander Proctor seemed to have an ability to enjoy life and perceive nature unencumbered.  Thus, he could easily address the challenge of capturing the fierceness of a panther, and in his next work, portray the delicacy of a timid fawn.

Proctor had two deep desires in life: the first being to spend as much time in the wilderness and the second to accomplish something worthwhile in art.  He became known for his wild animal and equestrian sculptors and chronicles of the American West.

Proctor was born in 1862 in Ontario Canada.  Shortly thereafter, in 1871, his family moved to Denver, Colorado.   Considering himself a genuine westerner, he gave himself the nickname "Sculptor in Buckskin."

In 1885, he became a student at the National Academy of Design and the Student's Art League in New York.  He studied under the sculptor John Rodgers.  He spent his summers seeking adventures in the mountains of Washington and Colorado. With a goal of capturing the spirit of his adventures, he sculpted thirty-five life-sized animals. These works which were commissioned for the Work's Colombian Exposition in 1893, and gave Proctor both recognition and financial stability.

After this first success, Proctor went to Paris for a year for more formal training.  He attended the Julian Academy where he studied under Denys Puesch.  In 1893, he won his first prize at annual competition in Paris for The Boxer-Pug.  His work received the praise of Parisian Art Critics and Augustas Saint-Gauden who commissioned several of his works: one being General Sherman's horse, which now resides in Central Park, New York City.

In the Fall of 1896, he received the Rinehart Scholarship, which enabled him to spend the following three years studying art in Paris.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V
Biography photo for Alexander Proctor
Born: Bozanquit, Ontario, Canada 1862
Died: Palo Alto, California 1950

Important animal, Western, and figural sculptor, painter.

Proctor was raised in Denver where he knew legendary frontier personalities. At 14, he was spending his summers hunting and trapping in the Rockies, a self-taught sketch artist on Western subjects. He also began modeling animals, working alone. In 1887, he went to New York City for formal training at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. His first important exhibition was at the Columbian Exposition in 1893, following which he studied in Paris for a year until Saint-Gaudens hired him as an assistant. In 1895, he won a Rinehart Scholarship for study in Paris at the Julien and Colarossi academies, the pupil of Puech and Injalbert.

Success came by 1900, Proctor spent his summers in the Northwest, hunting and making studies for his winters in New York City. Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the Bison Heads over the mantel in the state dining room of the White House. Many of his monuments were recast by the foundries Roman Bronze and Gorham Bronze in sizes reduced to eight to 35" high. Proctor also made pen and ink drawings, crayon drawings, small oils, and Western animal etchings. "During his lifetime, there were few major cities which did not have Proctor's life-size bronze figures."

Resource: SAMUELS' Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

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About  Alexander Proctor

Born:  1860 - Bozanquit, Ontario
Died:   1950 - Palo Alto, California
Known for:  life size animal and figure sculpture

Essays referring to
Alexander Proctor

San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915