Alexander Phimister Proctor

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Alexander Phimister Proctor
Alexander Phimister Proctor Self Portrait.jpg
Proctor self-portrait
Born (1860-09-27)27 September 1860
Bosanquet Township, Ontario, Canada (then in the Province of Canada)
Died 27 September 1950(1950-09-27) (aged 90)
Palo Alto, California
Known for Sculpture and painter
Notable work(s) Bucking Bronco, Denver, Colorado (1920); Theodore Roosevelt As a Rough Rider, Portland, Oregon (1922); On the War Path, Denver, Colorado (1923)
Awards Columbian Exposition, Designer Medal (1893); Académie Julien, Medal and Prize (1894); Paris Exposition, Gold Medal (1900); Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Gold Medal (1904); Architectural League of New York, Gold Medal of Honor (1911); Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Gold Medal (1915) [1]

Alexander Phimister Proctor (September 27, 1860 – September 4, 1950) was an American sculptor with the contemporary reputation as one of the nation's foremost animaliers.

Birth and early years[edit]

Born in Bosanquet, Ontario, near the village of Arkona, Ontario, the son of Thirzah Smith (born 1832), herself daughter of a contractor on the Erie and Welland Canals, and Alexander Proctor (1822–alive 1904).[2] The family left Canada in 1866[3] and moved to Iowa and then to Denver, Colorado, when Alexander was eleven. Growing up on the frontier, Proctor early developed into a skilled woodsman and hunter—interests that remained with him for the rest of his life. In his autobiography, Sculptor in Buckskin, he spends as much ink, and seems to be as excited about, bagging his first bear and elk as he is about obtaining his first major commission.

Along with his gun, Proctor took pencils and a sketching pad with him on his trips through the Rocky Mountains. As a hunter he always was careful to measure, draw, and sometimes dissect the animals that had crossed his gun sights. These early studies helped propel him to the position of one of the most sought after and respected animaliers of his day. He was fortunate to find an art instructor in the still rough and tumble Colorado, where his early drawings included big horn sheep, elk, bears, and the lynching of outlaw L.H. Musgrove, which occurred in Denver in November 1868.

Studies in New York and Paris[edit]

In 1885 Proctor sold a homestead that he had acquired in Colorado and used the proceeds to move to New York City with the intention of studying art. He enrolled first in the National Academy of Design where he studied drawing and painting, and later, at the Art Students League of New York, where his interest in sculpture came to the fore. His ability to capture animals in action, garnered in part from his days tracking them, coupled with his interest in all things Native American, opened a niche for Proctor, one that he parlayed into a long, successful career.

As with many of his contemporaries, Proctor’s opportunity to work with some of the greatest sculptors of his day, coupled with the opportunity to create his own large, albeit temporary, pieces presented itself in the guise of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Several Proctor pieces were paired with Daniel Chester French, then the rising star of the sculpture world.

This collaboration resurfaced in the ensuing years when French called upon Proctor to provide mounts for some of his equestrian monuments. Proctor later was called upon to produce works of various Western themes, mostly figures of native animals, but also a cowboy and Indian that were to form the genesis of his later works, The Bucking Bronco and On the War Trail, both found in Denver.

Proctor moved to Paris to continue his studies. During this period he assisted Augustus Saint Gaudens in the creating of the General Logan Monument, now in Chicago. In 1896 he won the Rinehart Scholarship which allowed him to work and study in Paris for four years under Jean Antoine Injalbert and others. By the time he returned to America in 1899 Proctor was well versed in the Beaux-Arts tradition.

Settling in New York City[edit]

Proctor perhaps is known best for the horse underneath William Tecumseh Sherman in Grand Army Plaza. Prior to 1910 he completed a pair of large bronze tigers flanking the steps of Nassau Hall at Princeton University, and some animal heads at the Bronx Zoo.[citation needed]

Alexander Phimister Proctor and Alden Sampson had McKim, Mead & White design a three-story double-studio for them on Fifty-first Street, off of Third Avenue, in 1911. The building had a romantic brick facade with double-height rooms on the second and third floors, step-out balconies, and a projecting pent-eave roof.[4] While the building no longer exists, it did represent an intriguing collaboration between the preeminent architecture firms and one of the leading sculptors of wildlife of their day.

From this studio in 1922 he completed a model of a sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt for Portland, Oregon.[5] The sculpture was commissioned from Henry Waldo Coe. Coe and Roosevelt had met in North Dakota where Roosevelt had gone following the tragic death of his wife and mother. There they formed a lasting relationship. Coe later had a sculpture of Roosevelt made which he donated to the city of Portland. Other statues he donated were of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Jeanne d'Arc.[6] A second sculpture was cast from this same mold, moved, and dedicated in Oyster Bay, New York on October 29, 2005.

Later years[edit]

In between commissions Proctor frequently returned to the West for rejuvenation and inspiration, seeking out members of various Native American tribes to pose for his works.

On a hunting trip to Alaska in 1947 Proctor shot a bear, seventy years to the day after which he had bagged his first one.

Proctor died in Palo Alto, California, where he was living with his daughter, just a few days before his ninetieth birthday.

A sculptor of the "old school," Proctor resisted even the vestiges of modernism that many of his contemporaries adopted. Examples of his legacy are scattered from coast to coast throughout America. As one of the witnesses of the death of the old America (many other artists saw only the birth of the new one) Proctor’s works showing the animals and peoples of frontier America remain popular and as vital today as when he produced them.

Selected works[edit]

On the Warpath Denver, CO



  1. ^ “Alexander Phimister Proctor”, Alexander Phimister Proctor Museum, Hansville, Washington, 13 March 2011.
  2. ^ Wynne Eastman. Genealogical Tracings of the Ancestors, Family and Descendants of Amherst Eastman, Immigrant to Upper Canada in 1785(Waterloo, Ontario: W. Eastman, 1993), 192-193
  3. ^ Charles C. Hill, "Alexander Phimister Proctor," The Canadian Encyclopedia2009 Historica Foundation of Canada
  4. ^ Gray, Christopher (2009-07-30). "Streetscapes - Readers' Questions". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 
  5. ^ Gray, Christopher (2009-08-01). "Streetscapes - Readers' Questions". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Manuscript Collections - Henry Waldo Coe Papers". UO Libraries. University of Oregon. 2009-08-01. 
  7. ^ Theodore Roosevelt, (sculpture) at Roosevelt Park
  8. ^ The Seven Mustangs, (sculpture).
  9. ^ Proctor, Alexander Phimister from the Handbook of Texas Online Gives the name of the sculpture as Mustangs

Further reading[edit]

  • J. Frank Dobie, The Seven Mustangs. Address delivered at the unveiling of the monument, May 31, 1948, University of Texas, Austin. The Adams Publications, Austin, Texas, 1948.
  • Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America, Thomas Y. Crowell Co, NY, NY 1968
  • Hassrick, Peter H, Wildlife and Western Heroes: Alexander Phimister Proctor, Sculptor, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas 2003
  • Proctor, Alexander Phimister, edited by Hester Elizabeth Proctor, Alexander Phimister Proctor, Sculptor in Buckskin: An Autobiography by Alexander Phimister Proctor, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK 1971
  • Proske, Beatrice Gilman, Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture, Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, 1968
  • Taft, Lorado, History of American Sculpture, The MacMillan Company, NY, NY 1925