THE ART OF THE GOOSE
The goose has long been an intriguing species to artists, decoy makers, hunters, and collectors alike. Their grand size, animated characters, adaptability, ubiquity across North America, and dynamic poses have led to a myriad of interpretations over the years. No other species has been represented with such variation.
Makers have been compelled to address a number of challenges before designing a Canada goose decoy, such as the selection of materials and construction techniques for the body, head, and neck. As a result, Canada goose decoy permutations are extensive. Additionally, many poses can be represented in a rig, and these can be contingent on whether the decoys will be used as floaters, stick-ups, or even flyers. Representations of plumage on geese also vary tremendously from the spartan three-color paint application of Walter Brady, to the detailed feathering of Lem Ward (lots 382,384 & 388), to the meticulously blended feathering of A. Elmer Crowell as seen in the Long Collection geese. As anyone who has spent time observing geese knows, a gaggle on the water or on land will nearly always display multiple head positions simultaneously, for instance when one sentinel's head goes down to eat, a feeder’s head comes up to lookout. Both the individuals and groupings remain perpetually dynamic.
It is no surprise that some of the finest and most captivating goose decoys came from makers who were known to keep live geese, among these were the Cobbs and A. Elmer Crowell. It is plausible that other accomplished goose makers also had extensive exposure to the live bird as well; for instance, Ira Hudson’s island home of Chincoteague was known to have been populated by them during his life (lot 376).
Some of the impressive and celebrated solutions to constructing the goose's head and neck include rootheads, laminations, metal or hardwood reinforcements, and dovetailed or mortise-and-tenon joints. The massive bodies have been created from a variety of approaches including the standard one-or-two-piece wooden block, laminations, slats, and stretched canvas. George Boyd famously applied his specialized skills and tools as a shoemaker when crafting his intricate canvas-and-slat geese (lots 311-314).
George Boyd (1873-1941)
Seabrook, NH, c. 1920
The Batchelder Collection of Boyd Canada geese presents collectors with a rare opportunity to view and obtain a rig from one of New England's master carvers that has never before been offered at auction. This highly refined canvas-covered Canada goose is portrayed in a rare swimming pose by New Hampshire’s most revered decoy maker. Boyd was a cobbler and the canvas-over-slat construction seen in this bird demonstrates his skills in this field.
Revered for their mastery of form, unbridled craftsmanship, paint detail, and rarity, few goose decoy forms resonate with collectors more than the swimming examples produced by George Boyd. Constructed with wooden heads and inserted eyes, the bodies are made of canvas stretched over wooden slat frames with shaped paddle tails. The canvas is meticulously folded over and fastened to the bottom board with over one hundred small cobbler's tacks. While a number of Boyd’s straight-head decoys in original paint have come to market over the decades, only five of his geese with heads outstretched have ever surfaced. The Batchelder Boyd swimming goose resides near the top of this illustrious group.
The innovative and captivating forms of Boyd swimming geese have been featured in numerous articles, catalogs, books, and exhibitions. A Boyd swimming goose decoy appeared on the cover of Moore and Harmon’s November 1988 catalog Decoys at Auction. That decoy set a new world record for the maker and was acquired by an important Southern decoy, sporting, and folk art collector. This same collector also owned the hissing goose by Joseph Lincoln (1859-1938) which, in 1986, set the world record for the highest price paid for any decoy at auction. Both of these decoys were subsequently acquired by one of the world’s leading folk art collectors in a private sale brokered by Stephen B. O’Brien Jr. Fine Arts, LLC. Both of these decoys were prominently featured in Loy Harrell Jr.’s "Decoy’s North America’s One Hundred Greatest," and the Boyd was also published in the major folk art treatise "American Vernacular" by Roger Ricco and Frank Maresca.
Copley is pleased to offer the Batchelder swimming goose at auction for the very first time. This modern “find” offers collectors the opportunity to own one of the iconic forms of American folk art.
Provenance: Howard Batchelder Rig, acquired directly from George Boyd
By descent in the family to present owner
Literature: Jim Cullen, "Finely Carved & Nicely Painted: The Life, Art and Decoys of George H. Boyd, Seabrook, New Hampshire 1873-1941" Rye, NH, 2009, dust jacket cover and p. 28, similar example illustrated. Loy S. Harrel, Jr., "Decoys: North America's One Hundred Greatest," Iola, WI, 2000, pp. 106 - 107, similar decoy illustrated. Frank Maresca and Roger Ricco, "American Vernacular," Boston, MA, 2002, p. 46, similar decoy illustrated. Moore and Harmon, "Decoys at Auction," Hyannis, MA, November 9, 1988, catalog, cover, and lot 231, similar decoy illustrated.
Strong original paint with fine craquelure, even gunning wear, worn to wood in one small area, and minor filler loss on left breast.