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 Lothrop Turner Holmes  (1824 - 1899)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Rhode Island      Known for: wildfowl decoy carver

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Ad Code: 2
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Lothrop Turner Holmes (1824 – 1899)
An important wildfowl decoy carver, Lothrop Turner Holmes’ decoys have sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Currently, his Red Breasted Mergaser Hen ranks number one on the “Top 50 Decoys Ever Sold at Auction” list; the carving sold in January 2007 for $856,000.00. (1)
Attached below is courtesy of the Kingston Public Library, Kingston, Massachusetts:
Lothrop Turner Holmes was born in Plympton, MA on March 29, 1824, son of Martin and Mary Turner Holmes. He married Elizabeth Howland Washburn of Kingston on June 4, 1848, and died on October 3, 1899. According to an obituary notice published in the October 14, 1899 issue of the Old Colony Memorial: “Mr. [Lothrop T.] Holmes was born [sic] and spent most of his life in Kingston, except when following his trade, a molder, [in an iron foundry] at Providence, R.I. He also worked at factories here [Kingston?].

Mr. Holmes was for many years superintendent of Evergreen Cemetery, resigning a few years ago. He lived a quiet life, and was respected by the community at large. He was passionately fond of instrumental music, the banjo being his favorite. Mr. Holmes was a widower, his wife having died several years ago. He was a mason.”
No mention was made in his obituary of his talent as a carver of hunting decoys for which he became a celebrated figure among antique collectors in the 20th century. Adele Earnest in the Art of the Decoy wrote: “The most sophisticated carver of the nineteenth century was undoubtedly Lothrop T. Holmes of Kingston. Holmes’ merganser decoys are a legacy any man would be proud to leave. The sensitive modeling and brushwork of these birds resemble the exquisite rendering of waterfowl on Chinese scrolls...”
Source: Kingston Public Library, Manuscript Collection
Attached below is courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum, New York City:
Lothrop Holmes descended from a family of ship carvers and earned his living as a cemetery superintendent. Few examples of his work survive, and most were made for his own use. Holmes is best known for his mergansers, but he also carved shorebirds, including yellowlegs, black-bellied plovers, and ruddy turnstones. In addition to displaying elegant carving, the decoys are exquisitely painted in bold, stylized patterning.
Source: American Folk Art Museum, Early Objects & Sculpture Collection
(1) Source for Top 50 Decoys Ever Sold at Auction: Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter, St. Michaels, Maryland.
Additional sources:
Decoys – North America's One Hundred Greatest (2011), by Loy S. Harrell Jr. (see AskART book references)
Bird Decoys of North America: Nature, History, and Art (2010), by Robert Shaw (see AskART book references)
The Great Book of Wildfowl Decoys (2000), edited by Joe Engers (see AskART book references)
The Bird Decoy: An American Art Form (1976), by Paul A. Johnsgard (see AskART book references)
Shorebirds: The Birds, the Hunters, the Decoys (1991), by John M. Levinson and Somers G. Headley (see AskART book references)
Folk Art In America: A Personal View (1984), by Adele Earnest (see AskART book references)
The Art of the Decoy: American Bird Carvings (1965), by Adele Earnest (see AskART book references)

Submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke.

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