John Haley Bellamy : Carver of Eagles by Yvonne Brault Smith
[Portsmouth, N.H.] : Portsmouth Marine Society, 1982. First Edition. Hardcover. 103 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm. Foxing to dust jacket. Pages clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
John Haley Bellamy
Carver of Eagles by Yvonne Brault Smith
John Haley Bellamy (1836-1914) has become one of America's best-known woodcarvers. His so-called Bellamy hanging wall eagle is frequently copied by contemporary carvers and his own original pieces are actively sought by individuals and museums for their collections. Bellamy's most famous single piece is the Lancaster Eagle figurehead now on permanent exhibit at the Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA. Weighing 3,200 pounds with an 18' wingspan, the Lancaster Eagle is a marvel of artistic and engineering ingenuity.
Bellamy never considered himself an artist. In fact few of his pieces are signed yet so distinctive are his carvings that experts can easily distinguish them from the works of others. Bellamy's eagles show a simplicity in design, form and shape and yet he gave his birds a swing, a feeling of action and movement. His carvings are like snowflakes, alike yet different and all bear his personalized characteristics.
Bellamy the man was a different manner. In this the first detailed biography of Bellamy, author Smith, using personal remembrances and family correspondence, traces the life of the troubled, restless artist.
In addition to various types of eagles, Bellamy produced other animals, furniture, decorative pieces for ships and Masonic frames and clock cases. He held patents on many carved pieces and even on such devices as rowlocks.
It would seem that with all of this energy and talent, Bellamy might have established a lucrative business but perhaps his artistic nature, as it did for so many others, doomed his business success. He moved constantly between his home and workshop at Kittery Point, Maine and Portsmouth, NH, Boston and Charlestown, MA. As Smith relates, no sooner did Bellamy establish a clientele for some of his articles such as Masonic frames than he would drop the business and move back to Portsmouth, perhaps to accept a carving assignment at the Navy Yard for $2.50 per day. The reasons for these restless movements can only be speculated upon for neither Bellamy nor his many friends, such as author William Dean Howells, left any clues.
It is known that Bellamy suffered from apparent alcoholism, especially in the last half of his life. In his later years he stopped carving altogether, becoming the town drunk, sometimes swapping his carvings for bottles of liquor. Judged incompetent and unable to handle his own affairs, Bellamy spent his last years in Portsmouth, senile and in the care of distant relatives.
Family papers and correspondence once thought lost, have been recovered in the last decade making this book posSible and revealing aspects of Bellamy's life that have puzzled and confused other authors.
As Yvonne Smith recounts the life of the carver, she also explores his carving techniques and methods giving insight to the remarkable talent of this folk artist whose works now sell for thousands of dollars at auction.
This book includes more than 60 illustrations of Bellamy's work including four photographs in full color. Reproductions of original Bellamy patterns and newly drawn patterns make this volume a useful tool for the contemporary carver.
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