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Charles Livingston Bull, Naturalist Illustrator


The USPS has partnered with The Ringling Museum and issued a new series of limited edition stamps "Vintage Circus Posters". They caught my eye at the post office because of some research I am doing for a project. 

According to the USPS, "The new Vintage Circus Posters Forever stamps are modeled after original circus posters — including those promoting the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — and are now part of the Tibbals Digital Collection at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art." These were large posters (42 x 28) and sometimes covered whole sides of buildings in hundreds of sheets..

I turned over the sheet to find out more about the artists who produced them and was disappointed to see that no information was included about the artists. Maybe there were just too many different artists to list and some were anonymous as I found out later. One though was Charles Livingston Bull, from nearby Rochester and who was "never without a pencil" sketching at Zoos regularly. The man was prolific producing thousands of natural science illustrations before he died at age 57. PT Barnum hired him to do the poster illustration below.

Here is an interesting slide show on his life.

Never really a circus lover these posters though make me happy. But I have given lots of thought as to how unhappy the animals may be...I guess PT Barnum wasn't thinking of the animals when he said... " The noblest art is that of making others happy." 

This from the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo, 

Charles Livingston Bull was an American illustrator widely known for his depictions of wildlife. Born in West Walworth, N.Y. in 1874, he moved with his family to nearby Rochester, N.Y. as a youth. After his father discouraged him from pursuing a career in art, he turned instead to taxidermy, a craft which ironically proved to be a great influence on his later artistic production. While still a teenager he began working for Ward’s Museum of Natural History in Rochester, then accepted a position at the National Museum in Washington, D.C., in the early 1890s, during which time he also studied art at the Corcoran Gallery. A commission brought him to Buffalo for the 1901 Pan-American Exhibition; when he was done there, he and his wife Fannie Seymour returned to Rochester and then relocated to New York City.

Bull soon became an in-demand illustrator whose work appeared in the Saturday Evening PostLadies Home Journal, and Boy’s Life, among many other magazines, and in over 125 books, including those by such authors as Jack London, Frank Baum, and Rudyard Kipling. One of his best-known images, that of a leaping tiger, was commissioned in 1920 by Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey for a circus poster. In an era marked by improved color reproduction in publications, Bull was one of the best-known and most prolific wildlife artists of his day. Among the many younger artists influenced by his work was Charles Burchfield, who copied some of Bull’s illustrations while learning his craft.


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