Charles Livingston Bull (American, 1874-1932), [Red Fox]
Charles Livingston Bull (American, 1874-1932)
Likely prepared for a Charles G.D. Roberts’ Red Fox,
but not reproduced in the final issue of the novel
Ink and charcoal with touches of watercolor on illustration board
Paper size: 21 7/8 x 15 in.
References consulted: Samuel G. Goodrich, Brief Biographies of Some Well-Known Authors and Illustrators, Penn Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1929.
Charles Livingston Bull was the premier American wildlife artist of his time, a subject he explored through literature. Bull contributed engaging compositions to a wide range of publications from classic literature such as Jack London’s Call of the Wild to The Saturday Evening Post.
Born near Rochester, New York, Bull loved animals from an early age. At the age of sixteen to merge his interest with a potentially stable career, Bull studied taxidermy at Rochester’s Ward’s Museum. He supplemented this expertise in animal anatomy with evening drawing classes at the Mechanic’s Institute. There he met Harvey Ellis with whom he formed the Rochester Arts & Crafts Society, one of the first groups in the United States to focus on the Arts and Crafts movement. Eventually, he earned the position of chief taxidermist at the National Museum in Washington, D.C. where he was sought out as an expert on animal anatomy.
Ready to pursue his artistic dream, Charles quit his National Museum job and moved to New York City. For many years he would live right across the street from the Bronx Zoological Gardens, where he went almost daily to observe and draw the animals. At that time, the Bronx Zoo designed around a circular sea lion pool, with almost a thousand mammals, birds, reptiles and fishes featured in some pavilions. As well as the usual zoo inmates like lions, tigers, monkeys and polar bears, the Zoo also featured captured bison and snow leopards.
In New York City Bull illustrated for magazines such as Century, McClure’s, Outing, and The Saturday Evening Post. By 1902, he had gained considerable recognition for his illustrations in two books, Jack London’s Call of the Wild and Charles Roberts’ The Kindred of the Wild. In 1911, he published Under the Roof of the Jungle, a book detailing his experiences in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Bull also did work for advertising campaigns, his most famous being his 1920 advertising poster of the “leaping tiger” for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. With these significant publications, Bulls’ top position in the field of wildlife illustration was assured.
Bull lived much of his working life in Oradell, New Jersey, where he settled with his wife in 1910. He exhibited at the National Academy of Design and was a member of the Salmagundi Club, Society of Mural Painters, and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
While Bull observed these animals in life, he completed his compositions in the studio. Writing, “Sometimes when I take a story to illustrate, I make an outline of an animal, then go to a zoo and sit by the cage of that lion, tiger or whatever it is. I watch him closely as he walks, leaps, crouches, and from his positions I correct my outline and then carry it home to be filled in. My working hours are probably the craziest in the world for I begin at four in the afternoon and work until two the next morning.” His engaging compositions are a brilliant combination of the scientific arts and fine arts. Priscilla Anne Lowry has written, Bull was inspired by “the traditions of Japanese woodblock prints and the English Aesthetic; the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, and particularly the bold yet sinuous drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, Bull established an attractive style of linear and tonal compositions.”
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