WALTER GAY (Hingham 1856-1937 Paris)
A sketchbook with studies of birds, etc.
signed and dated ‘Walter Gay/ September 12 1873’ (on the first page)
graphite, pen and brown ink
thirty-three pages, 8 x 6.1/5 in. (20 x 16 cm)
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Lot Essay

This sketchbook is an interesting document from Walter Gay’s years as a young man, before he left for Paris in 1876 and established himself there as an artist. As indicated on the first page, the notebook was started in 1870 to keep records of the birds shot during hunting excursions in America. The first pages are filled with lists of birds of Maine, Massachusetts, and Cape Cod, and, for the year between 1872 and 1873, Nebraska. In a letter to his brother of 1929 Gay remembered: ‘at the age of 17, in 1872 a great opportunity came into my life, that of going west, at that time a wilderness, peopled by Indians, & buffalo. My Uncle Charles Blakes who was to start a ranch, invited me and I jumped at the chance. There I spent the year 1872-73 & had thrilling experiences’ (quoted in Walter Gay. A Retrospective, exhib. cat., New York, 1980, p. 17). Most of the drawings in the second half of the notebook date from Gay’s time in Nebraska and include depictions of the thrilling sites and people encountered in the West. One of the sketches is a meticulous rendering of the interior of a log cabin at Big Springs in Colorado, a drawing almost anticipating Gay’s later interest and specialization in the depiction of elegant interiors.

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