West Walworth, N.Y.
The leading American wildlife artist during the first third of the 20th century, Charles Livingston Bull was known for his magazine and book illustrations, posters, advertising art and murals. He was also an author, a naturalist and an expert taxidermist. Born in West Walworth, N.Y. (near Rochester) in 1874, Bull apparently showed skill in drawing animals at an early age. He may have in apprenticed in taxidermy as a teenager at Henry August Ward’s (1834-1906) Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, a well-known taxidermy shop that worked on exhibits for major museums and trained some of the leading taxidermists of the day. Bull was working as a taxidermist at Ward’s in 1892 and became an expert taxidermist, a skill that would later inform his very accurate depictions of animals. In 1893 Ward reportedly sent Bull to the Chicago World’s Fair to install 400 birds in the Guatemalan exhibit. By 1896 Bull had left Ward’s and appears to be involved in the bicycle business; the 1900 Federal Census lists him as a “machinist”. At some point Bull pursued his interest in art, studying at night at Rochester’s Mechanics Institute (later the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute and now Rochester Institute of Technology), and by the 1890s worked under faculty members Harvey Ellis (1852-1904) and M. Louise Stowell (1861-1930). Several sources say Bull also studied at the Philadelphia Art School, without noting the dates of such study. The 1901 Rochester city directory lists Bull as an artist, and by then he had begun publishing illustrations in magazines, including covers for the “Saturday Evening Post” from 1902. His later Post covers often featured a bald eagle. Bull had married Rochester native Fanny Seymour (1873-1945), perhaps in the 1890s, and they moved to New York City around 1902, residing near the Bronx Zoo. Bull used zoo animals and birds as models, and became friends with ornithology curator William Beebe (1877-1962). Bull and Fanny accompanied Beebe and his wife Mary Blair Rice (1880-1959), (a travel writer and novelist later known as Blair Niles) on a winter expedition to Mexico in 1903-04 to sketch birds and collect live birds for the Bronx Zoo. Bull’s illustrations appeared in numerous books and magazines, including ten color plates (with Philip R. Goodwin [1881-1935]) for the first edition of Jack London’s (1876-1916) “The Call of the Wild” in 1903. Bull would go on to illustrate other books by London, including “Before Adam” and “White Fang” and would eventually illustrate some 135 books. Bull began receiving awards early in his career, including the Inness Prize (1902) and the Shaw Prize (1903) from the Salmagundi Club and a 1903 gold medal from the Philadelphia Art Club. Some sources report that Bull worked as a taxidermist for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., while other sources say he only visited Washington to paint a mural and create illustrations for the Museum. In 1906 Bull purchased residential lots in Oradell, New Jersey, and had moved there by 1910. In the meantime he and Fanny had toured Central and South America in 1908. Bull published his 1911 account of British Guiana’s jungle animals in “Under the Roof of the Jungle: A Book of Animal Life in the Guiana Wilds,” illustrated by depictions of the animals he saw. A supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, Bull was a founder of the Boy Scout Troop in Oradell in 1911 and contributed many illustrations to the Scouts magazine “Boys’ Life.” In addition to his illustrations, Bull created murals for a fishing lodge for the Wall Street banker Isaac Newton Seligman (1855-1917) and for architect William Gray Purcell’s (1880-1965) Minneapolis home (now known as the Purcell-Cutts house, 1913). In addition to magazine and book illustrations, Bull also provided art for commercial advertising, including a well-known poster for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus featuring a leaping tiger (1914). He also created several posters supporting the war effort during World War I. He and his wife traveled extensively in the United States and Canada, enabling him to study wildlife in its natural habitat. He exhibited at the National Academy of Design and in the 1922 exhibition of the Society of Animal Painters and Sculptors at the Art Institute of Chicago. Bull belonged to many art organizations, including the Salmagundi Club (New York), National Society of Mural Painters, American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York Water Color Club, the Architectural League of New York and the Society of Illustrators. He died at his home in Oradell in 1932 from complications of a back injury suffered at his summer camp. (TNB 3/2018) Selected bibliography: Wright, Kevin. “A brush with the Wild: the life and art of Charles Livingston Bull,” four parts, River Dell Patch, https://patch.com/new-jersey/reverdell/bp