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Bohemian Bear Tamer

modeled 1887 Paul Wayland Bartlett Born: New Haven, Connecticut 1865 Died: Paris, France 1925 bronze 17 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 10 3/4 in. (44.6 x 21.6 x 27.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mary O. Bowditch 1961.4.1 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 19B


Luce Center Label

Paul Wayland Bartlett began his career as a sculptor of animals, as seen in this scene of a young man coaxing a bear cub to stand on its hind legs. The success of the original plaster model of this work allowed Bartlett to begin casting his sculptures in bronze, and established his reputation in America. The cub's clumsy attempt at standing, with his paws held out for balance, serves as a contrast to the tamer's confident stance. The image of the young man is likely based on European Gypsy "bear leaders," who trained bears to perform for audiences as early as the medieval period. While this sculpture seems to depict bear taming as carefree, the figure clutches a whip behind his back, hinting at the less playful reality of the animal trainers Bartlett depicted.

Keywords

Animal - bear

Figure male - full length

Figure male - nude

Performing arts - circus - animal tamer

sculpture

metal - bronze

About Paul Wayland Bartlett

Born: New Haven, Connecticut 1865 Died: Paris, France 1925

More works in the collection by
Paul Wayland Bartlett