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 Edward Kemeys  (1843 - 1907)

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Lived/Active: New York/Illinois      Known for: wild animal sculpture, animalier

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Edward Kemeys was America's first "animalier" or specialist in animal sculpture and is noted for being the sculptor of the lions, which guard the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago. Kemey's strength lay in conveying the character of each species, as well as a sense of natural movement.

He was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1843, but spent his youth in New York City. He received no early formal training in art and was for the most part a self-taught artist. His first job was an iron worker until the outbreak of the Civil War in which he served in the Union Army attaining the rank of Captain of Artillery. After the war he traveled to Illinois and became a farmer, a venture that failed after a few years.

He first became interested in animals when he moved back to New York City and was employed in the construction of Central Park. At the Central Park Zoo he observed someone modeling a wolf's head at the zoo and decided to try sculpture himself. His talent manifested itself immediately, and his first sculpture Hudson Bay Wolves (1872) was purchased for Philadelphia's Fairmont Park.

The money from this commission allowed him to travel to the West in the 1870s, studying first hand wild animals in nature. He hunted buffalo with the Indians wearing a wolf skin. Like Frederic Remington, he assumed an obligation to record aspects of the American West that were rapidly disappearing.

When his funds ran out, he went back to New York City where he opened a small studio. It was there that he created some of his finest work and exhibited them at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876.

He went abroad from 1877 to 1879, and exhibited his Bison and Wolves, which received great acclaim at the Paris Salon of 1878. Subsequently, he made major large works including Still Hunt (1883, Central Park, New York City), the colossal bison head for the Union Pacific Railroad bridge in Omaha, Nebraska (circa 1885-90), and the bronze lions at the Art Institute of Chicago (1895).

Returning to the United States in 1879, he continued to study animals both alive and dissecting dead ones to gain the intimate knowledge of their bone and muscle structure.

Edward Kemeys exhibited twelve sculptures at the 1893 Worlds Colombian Exposition in Chicago, winning medals at both fairs. In 1900 he moved to Washington DC where he lived until his death in 1907.

Sources:

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Artists

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

www.bronze-gallery.com


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Edward Kemeys is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Sculptors

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