I am a true fan o' the history o' waterfowl hunting and the working / gunning decoys utilized during the golden era o' the fowler. One can certainly look at the remaining examples o' the great carvers o' times long gone and view their wooden birds as floating sculpture. I have a number o' favorites, most o' them from New England where I have spent much o' me life fowling. I am posting two renderings o' vintage working decoys I have done in tribute to a pair o' me favorite makers - Gus Wilson o' Maine (common eider drake) and Shang Wheeler o' Connecticut (Canada goose). Both renderings are done on acid free archival quality paper using mixed media. Image size for both renderings is approximately 9" X 12".
I particularly love Wilson's whimsical use o' paint in making his birds a bit more ornate than most o' the standard block style painting utilized by prolific makers from the same time period. As for Shang Wheeler, I love the graceful form his decoys assumed and I have hunted many o' the same waters he did many decades previous to meself.😀
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Interesting, not being a hunter I never thought much about the art work that is decoy carving. We've vacationed in/near Duck, NC though, and I have noticed that antique duck decoys are held in high regard. It would probably be hard to find good ones amidst all the tourist-bait modern decoys that people buy to adorn their homes. I'll have to pay more attention. How do you learn who the respected carvers are?
Both of your renderings are very well done. I like the style of the eider drake.
Decoys are a fascinating subject from both a historical perspective and as a true American folk art form. The great carvers of historical significance are well documented in a number of books some focused on a specific carver, others on the decoys of a particular region or flyway. There are examples of works by many of the carvers of historical importance in museum collections. Decoys varied greatly in design and species carved from maker to maker those variations dictated by the conditions of waters on which they were used and the abundance and quality of specific species as tablefare, many of the original gereat makers having also been "market hunters" that hunted birds for a living to provide food for a demanding market. Changes in federal law specific to commercial hunting for waterfowl which resulted in an outright and much needed prohibition of the activity led to the eventual demise of most market hunting in the early 1900's. Many of the birds created by those early carvers ended up in the fireplace being used as a heat source or they were relegated to storage and sat idle for years until collectors took note and sought them out. There are makers that made great numbers of one specie and very few of other species which make the latter highly collectible examples of the makers work. A number of nuances are used to attribute work to a specific maker if the bird is unsigned or not "branded" with a hot iron, a practice common to certain makers and not others.
Values of decoys are based on a great number of factors including overall condition, original paint vs. repainted, specie, rarity, and of course whom the maker was. There are auction houses that specialize in the auction of decoys and they hold major auctions for collectors. There are decoys that have brought close to the one million dollar mark at auction.
There is a huge interest in the collection of waterfowl related art, decoys, game calls, guns, boats, clothing, ammo and ammo boxes, gunning boxes, etc., etc.
Last edited by IRISHWISTLER; 03-08-2017 at 12:31 PM.
They are beautiful pieces of art.
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