Leander Allen Plummer’s Striped Bass Reliefs – Scott Wilson

SO, YOU THINK YOU ARE OBSESSED WITH BASS?

A number of years ago I was fortunate to offer through my auction company a wonderful example of the work of a local artist who carved at the turn of the last century.  While I’d been aware of the tautog and lobster subject that I’d sold as well as a number of freshwater examples, I only yesterday discovered examples of striped bass that Plummer had executed.

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Leander Allen Plummer II (New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1857-1914)

Leander Plummer was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His father was one of the incorporators of the successful New Bedford Cordage Company. Initially working as a mining engineer, Plummer changed direction in 1883, when he decided at the age of twenty-six to pursue art, and spent the next four years studying at the Academie Julian in Paris.  He was an enthusiastic fisherman and sportman and often depicted wildlife.

Plummer returned to the United States with his artistic training to initially work as a commercial artist specializing in massive, elaborately carved furniture. He spent his summers in Potomska painting the wildlife he observed as a fisherman and sportsman in the New Bedford area and eventually discovered a talent in woodcarving after nature.  He became so interested in marine specimens that he had a wharf constructed so he could study live marine mammals and fish.

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He found that he had a great aptitude for detailed naturalistic sculpture and combined his painting and woodcarving skills in creating “relief paintings”, his words for deeply carved wood reliefs that he stained with pigments he devised for authenticity to create a life-like appearance. He carved primarily in pine, teak and mahogany.  His typical carvings took from six weeks to two months to complete and exhibited at Doll and Richards Gallery in New York.

Plummer’s panels became popular among fishermen and sportsmen, and by 1906 he had orders for approximately forty to fifty relief paintings.

Measuring 35½ by 62 inches, this intricately carved panel depicted a hooked bass leaping from swirling waters with seaweed, shells and other fish appearing in its wake. Stained with pigments that Plummer used to create a lifelike appearance, the masterpiece had descended through the family of the artist. The lot was accompanied by a brass-bound box filled with his gouges and woodworking tools. Several in the crowd bid the lot on its way to a selling price of $59,250.

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* Please note the amazing dimensions of this carving!

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