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Carl E. Akeley
American, 1864–1926
Lion and Bull Fighting, 1914
Cast bronze
H. 12 1/4 in. x W. 7 1/8 in. x L. 22 3/4 in.
IUAM 94.83

Carl Akeley, innovative taxidermist and photographer, was also a skilled sculptor. Born on a farm outside Rochester, New York, Akeley got a job when he was seventeen at Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester. Appalled by the antiquated system of taxidermy, in which birds and animals were stuffed with rags and wood shavings, Akeley set out to make improvements. Working as an associate curator at the American Museum of Natural History, in 1909 he began to model clay maquettes to create accurate life-sized animal dioramas. In the process, he began to revolutionize the practice of taxidermy. His firsthand knowledge of animal behavior and anatomy, gathered during African travels for the museum, enabled him to produce several sensitive and realistic sculptures of animals.

Encouraged by financier J. P. Morgan and sculptor Alexander Proctor, he cast one of the clay groups into bronze in 1913. That first work was The Wounded Comrade. Akeley mentored important wildlife sculptors such as James L. Clark, Robert Rockwell, and Louis Jonas. Although he is well known, Akeley’s work is not widely held because it is rare— he did not create many sculptures before his death in 1926, while on a wildlife expedition to the Congo.

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