Amazing animal bronzes at San Diego Museum of Art!

Dog Gnawing Bone, Arthur Putnam, 1904. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Dog Gnawing Bone, Arthur Putnam, 1904. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.

Wow! I enjoyed another awesome visit to the San Diego Museum of Art last weekend, courtesy of my docent friend Catherine! She provided a spellbinding tour of several exhibits!  The one I liked most–possibly because I love animals and because the artist has a San Diego connection–concerned the bronze sculptures of Arthur Putnam.

The exhibition, titled Ferocious Bronze, features artwork so utterly amazing that Arthur Putnam has been called the American Rodin. He was such a gifted sculptor that his pieces have sometimes been mistaken for those of Frederic Remington. Most of his bronzes depict animals in the wild:  hunting, in mortal combat, at play or at rest.

Arthur Putnam lived from 1873–1930 and was considered one of the greatest sculptors of his era. At the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco he won a coveted Gold Medal.  During his lifetime his work was exhibited in major cities, including New York, Chicago, Paris and Rome. Many of his monumental public sculptures still stand in San Francisco, Monterey and San Diego.

Check out these photos! They provide a small taste of what you’ll experience should you visit Ferocious Bronze. You can get an idea of Putnam’s tremendous artistry. The superb realism is partly due to the fact that he personally loved the outdoors, and spent many days observing animals in the wild and at zoos. A mostly self-taught artist, Putnam even worked for a brief time at a slaughterhouse. (Yuck!)

Did I mention Arthur Putnam’s unique San Diego connection? His very first commission was from newspaper magnate E. W. Scripps, which he received at the Scripps Ranch located in Miramar. In addition, two of Putnam’s monumental works stand today near the spot where San Diego was founded–the very place where European civilization took root in California.

(I’ve included my own photos of the two splendid sculptures that now grace San Diego’s Presidio Hill.  I wrote a blog several years ago that concerned a fun walk past these sculptures.)

Ferocious Bronze, curated by Dr. James Grebl, showcases 28 of Putnam’s amazing animal pieces.  They were selected from the over 100 pieces that the San Diego Museum of Art has in their collection. This special exhibit was inspired by another Balboa Park institution: the world famous San Diego Zoo! They are now celebrating their centennial year!

If you happen to be in San Diego, and if you love fine art or have a special place in your heart for wild animals, I recommend that you head over to see Ferocious Bronze at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park! This very cool exhibition runs through October 11, 2016.

Big Combat, Arthur Putnam, undated. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Big Combat, Arthur Putnam, undated. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Ambling Bear, Arthur Putnam, 1910. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Ambling Bear, Arthur Putnam, 1910. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Fighting Buffalo, Arthur Putnam, 1900. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Fighting Buffalo, Arthur Putnam, 1900. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Lynx Ready to Spring, Arthur Putnam, 1909. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Lynx Ready to Spring, Arthur Putnam, 1909. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
The Indian, Arthur Putnam, 1905. This amazing sculpture stands today on San Diego's Presidio Hill beneath the Serra Museum.
The Indian, Arthur Putnam, 1905. This amazing sculpture stands on San Diego’s Presidio Hill beneath the Serra Museum.
The Padre, Arthur Putnam, 1908. This sculpture stands among some trees on San Diego's Presidio Hill beneath the Serra Museum.
The Padre, Arthur Putnam, 1908. This sculpture stands among some trees on San Diego’s Presidio Hill beneath the Serra Museum.
Wild Cat, Arthur Putnam, 1908. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Wild Cat, Arthur Putnam, 1908. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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