Monday December 19, 2016

Dr. Seuss: Taxidermy artist?

Flaming Herring

Flaming Herring (The Art of Dr. Seuss and Liss Gallery)

Listen 11:04

Dr. Seuss became involved with taxidermy after moving to New York City in the mid 1930s. But he wasn't into your typical stuffed and mounted animal head. "It's a Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy," says Dr. Seuss expert Jeff Schuffman. Schuffman works for The Art of Dr. Seuss project, an initiative started in 1997 by Dr. Seuss' wife Audrey Geisel.

Dr. Seuss' art began when his father was in charge of the zoo in Springfield, Massachusetts. His dad would send him beaks, horns, and antlers of animals who had naturally died for the purpose of drawing. The author kept these specimens for a decade in his apartment until Schuffman said he would "make them what he felt they would be reincarnated as" through taxidermy.  Dr. Seuss made 17 sculptures between 1934 to 1936 that he called his Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy.

Dilemma Fish

Dilemma Fish by Dr. Seuss (The Art of Dr. Seuss and Liss Gallery)

"They are Seussian in style, meaning they are expressive in their face. They are whimsical, comical, however, it is the head and neck of an animal that are coloured in different ways," explains Schuffman. Dr. Seuss would take the antlers or beaks of animals and put them together in different ways. These characters predated his books but Schuffman adds that "he used a couple of these sculptures in bookstores in New York City to try and help promote the sale of that particular book."

Dr. Seuss' unique sculptures were never meant for public sale. "Some of them were used in advertising campaigns," Schuffman notes that these sculptures were once displayed at the national motorboat show to help sell Esso marine oil. Dr. Seuss loved to create and was influenced by surreal art. He tried his hand at cubism, did abstract art, oil paintings and simple line drawings says Schuffman.

Andoluvian

Andoluvian by Dr. Seuss (The Art of Dr. Seuss and Liss Gallery )

"There's a whole side to Theodor Seuss Geisel than most of us have come to learn," admits Schuffman. He had such a public side to his life with the 44 published books he wrote and illustrated that Schuffman believes Dr. Seuss' taxidermy was something for his own enjoyment.  

Dr. Seuss' taxidermy art is on display at the If I Ran The Zoo exhibit at The Liss Gallery in Toronto from December 3rd to January 2nd, 2017. Find more details here.