The McCleery Nichols Feeding Yellowlegs
Fred M. Nichols (1854-1924)
Lynn, MA, c. 1890
12 1/2 in. long
An exceptional yellowlegs decoy in a feeding posture with raised wings that tuck under a thin paddle tail. The bird retains a metal sleeve in the stick hole and is branded "N" on the underside. Only a handful of Nichols feeding shorebirds decoys are known to exist. Fred Melville Nichols is considered among the greatest shorebird makers from any region. As Crowell’s "dust jacket" shorebirds have come to represent the finest of his stick-ups, this delicate feeding yellowlegs model is the standard bearer for this North Shore, Massachusetts, maker. Indeed, this exact model was chosen for the logo of Ted and Judy Harmon’s Decoy Unlimited Inc. and for the 1982 Massachusetts Waterfowl stamp. Dr. James M. McCleery selected this decoy from his collection to be featured in his famous “Call to The Sky” exhibition. Decoy curator and author Robert Shaw has published it twice, first in McCleery’s exhibition book, and then again in the the definitive "Bird Decoys of North America” book. In the latter, Shaw writes, "Nichols' obituary states that he was 'especially interested in music and birds, giving great attention to the shore-birds.' Both in form and paint, his handful of surviving whimbrels, yellowlegs, and plovers rank with the finest ever produced. He was a member of the Essex County Ornithological Club, whose first president was the renowned painter and etcher Frank Benson."
Original paint with gunning wear, including restoration to wingtips, tail, and bill extending to the lower portion of face.
Provenance: Dr. James M. McCleery Collection
Literature: Robert Shaw, "Call to the Sky: The Decoy Collection of James M. McCleery, M.D.," Houston, TX, 1992, p. 9.
Robert Shaw, "Bird Decoys of North America," New York, NY, 2010, p. 169, exact decoy illustrated.
John Clayton, “Massachusetts Masters: Decoys, Shorebirds, and Decorative Carvings Exhibition Catalog,” The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, 2010, p. 21, related example illustrated.
Gwladys Hopkins, "Massachusetts Masterpieces: The Decoy as Art," Lincoln, MA, 2016, pp. 56-57, related yellowlegs illustrated.
Robert Shaw and Ronald Gard, "The McCleery Auction," Dallas, TX, 2001 p. 19, exact decoy illustrated.
Rob Moir and Jackson Parker, "Massachusetts Waterfowl Decoys," The Magazine Antiques, September 1989, p. 524, pl. XIV, rigmate illustrated.
George Reiger, “Humble Masterpieces: Decoys,” National Geographic, vol. 164, no. 5, November 1983, p. 657, rigmates illustrated.
Exhibited: Houston, Texas, "Call to the Sky: The Decoy Collection of James M. McCleery, M.D.," Houston Museum of Natural Science, October 1992-January 1993.
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