POPE, Alexander, Jr. (1849-1924)
The Buffle-Headed Duck from "Upland Game Birds and Water Fowl of the United States"
New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1877. Original watercolor on paper, signed "A. Pope Jr." in lower right corner, framed together with a chromolithograph of the same scene, in a gold-leaf wooden frame with a French washline mat. Image size: (13 x 19 inches). Framed size: (22 1/2 x 28 inches).
A handsome watercolor of two buffle-headed ducks framed with a chromolithograph of the same, executed by the paragon of American sporting art Alexander Pope Jr. for his 1878 print portfolio "Upland Game Birds and Water Fowl of the United States."
Alexander Pope Jr. is the quintessential American sporting artist of animal and still-life paintings. Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1849, with deep roots in the Boston area that could be traced back to the Mayflower, Pope grew up working for his father's lumber business and used its spare wood for carving animal figures. He later found acclaim for these wooden carvings: Czar Alexander III of Russia owned two of them. Pope briefly studied sculpture under William Copley and Walter Rimmer, but he taught himself to paint. He was an avid outdoorsman, a member of fly-fishing and shooting clubs, who, according to Alfred Frankenstein, was of the "back-slapping, club-going variety who spent his entire life in and around Boston." In 1878 he published an important portfolio of chromolithographs after his watercolors: Upland Game Birds and Water Fowl of the United States, from which this watercolor and print of two ducks comes. In 1882, his second portfolio, Celebrated Dogs of America, Imported and Native, would follow. Pope was a member of the Copley Society of Art in Boston and his artwork is represented in major American art institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The plate here was accompanied by a Ernest Ignersoll text in Pope's Upland Game Birds and Water Fowl of the United States, in which is the following description of the Buffle-Headed Duck: "As wary as most of its kind, this little duck is one of the most difficult to kill [.] since it is a rapid and accomplished swimmer, a very expert diver, and in flight is noted for its great velocity. They do not set their wings back and stop their headway before alighting, as do most wild-fowl, but plump down, splashing the water on all sides, and when the water is smooth, often slide along on its surface a considerable distance. To get a shot at one of them requires experience and the utmost caution, unless the circumstances be of the most favorable description."
Pope, Upland Game Birds and Water Fowl of the United States, 1878, plate XIV.