The Ward Brothers
Lemuel T. (1896-1984) and Stephen (1895-1976)
Crisfield, MD, 1971
24 in. long
An animated full-size pair of hollow Canada geese with Crisfield's finest decorative carving and paint on full display. These birds were commissioned by Mr. du Pont and Lem seems to have been intent on impressing his patron from Delaware. Indeed, an impression was made and Lem's extraordinary efforts were set atop a chest of drawers at Rocky Hill, du Pont's home and waterfowl paradise.
This celebrated pair immediately draws a parallel to the famous A. Elmer Crowell geese commissioned and prominently displayed by patron Harry V. Long sixty years earlier.
One of the pair is the single-most iconic decorative form by the maker. It is in a relaxed head position with raised wing tips. A goose in this content pose was chosen as the logo for the Ward Foundation when it was founded over a half century ago. The foundation's mission was to create and maintain a memorial to Lem and Steve Ward and any other persons deemed to be outstanding in the field of wildfowl carving, art, and the conservation of natural resources and wildlife.
The Ward Foundation has been a huge success, building the Ward Museum in Salisbury, Maryland, and hosting the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition & Art Festival. A tribute to this form, the premier competition and museum have both adopted this goose pattern in their logos.
The content bird's mate is an even more ambitious form in an elaborate preening pose with both wings lifted from the body. The drawn-back and preening head virtually completes a figure-eight as the bill rests on the left shoulder. Lem Ward's daughter, Ida, selected a very closely related example of this pattern as the sole decoy featured on the dust jacket of her 1984 book on her father.
In addition to their grand poses, each carving features carved feather detail throughout the wings and fanned tails. These intricate forms provided Lem a tremendous canvas to integrate and exhibit his exceptional feather painting ability.
Each is signed "Lem Ward," inscribed "Made for the William K. du Pont Collection," dated, and bears the species' common and Latin names.
This du Pont pair is considered to be one of the Wards' crowning decorative achievements.
Original paint with minimal wear and minor craquelure. Each has an age line on bottom.
Provenance: William K. du Pont Collection, acquired directly from the maker
Literature: Glenn Lawson, The Story of Lem Ward, West Chester, PA, 1984, pp. 62-63, and back dust-jacket cover, closely related example illustrated,
Kenneth Basile and Cynthia Doerzbach, American Decorative Bird Carving, Ward Museum exhibition catalog, Baltimore, MD, 1981, front cover, closely related example illustrated.
Velma Barry and Richard Berkey, Pioneer Decoy Carvers: A Biography of Lemuel and Stephen Ward, Cambridge, MD, 1977, front cover, related carving illustrated.
Stephen B. O'Brien Jr. and Chelsie W. Olney, "Elmer Crowell: Father of American Bird Carving," Hingham, MA, 2019, p. 72, related Crowell carvings illustrated.
Ronald J. Gard and Brian J. McGrath, "The Ward Brothers' Decoys: A Collector's Guide," Plano, TX, 1989, p. 130, Ward Foundation goose illustrated.
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