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Outstanding Eider Hen Decoy, Augustus "Gus" Aaron Wilson (1864-1950)

Outstanding Eider Hen Decoy, Augustus "Gus" Aaron Wilson (1864-1950)

Item Description:

Augustus "Gus" Aaron Wilson (1864-1950)
South Portland, ME, c. 1900
17 1/2 in. long

"Wilson looked at waterfowl much the way the Ward brothers did. There was a similarity in their ability to capture an unusual pose and to produce a decoy that continues to enthrall even the seasoned gunners who have spent their lives observing waterfowl.” -Maine decoy author and historian, Capt. John Dinan

This boldly carved sea duck is one of the finest Wilson eider hen decoys to ever be offered at public auction. The carving features an exceptionally rendered breast-preening head with carved eyes, fine bill detail, and raised wings.

This large bird is over seventeen inches long, over eight inches tall, and over nine and three-quarters inches wide. The two-piece construction features a prodigious six-and-one-half by four-and-one-quarter-inch inletted head inlay. The bottom displays an anchor line ring fastened with an old fence staple.

Wilson was born on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Though he is foremost remembered as a carver, he was also a boat builder, waterman, outdoorsman, and lighthouse keeper. He was an attendant to a number of Maine’s lighthouses, including the Great Duck Island Light, Goose Rocks Station on Fox Island, Two Lights Station on Cape Elizabeth, Marshalls Point Light at Port Clyde, and Spring Point Light in Casco Bay.

According to art historian Gene Kangas, “His job as a lighthouse keeper provided financial security and ample time to facilitate rapid artistic advancement. Imaginative decoys and wildlife carving began to taking shape in an incredible variety of poses.”

Early regional traditions and requirements drove carvers to produce big solid decoys with modest paint patterns. “Seaworthiness, durability, practicality, effectiveness and affordability were essential considerations...Wilson’s genius is demonstrated by his ability to work within those existing traditions, yet elevate the Maine decoy to a higher level of artistic achievement.”

Wilson’s interests were by no means limited to decoys. He carved a variety of songbirds, decoratives, weathervanes, and big cats. A pair of Wilson’s tigers are featured in the American Identities exhibit, on display as a part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Strong original paint with even gunning wear. The underside has a crack and imperfection in wood, and there is a paint drip on left shoulder.

Provenance: Private Collection, Maine

Literature: Guyette and Schmidt, "North American Decoys at Auction, July 29 & 30, 2006," Boston, MA, 2006, p. 30, lot 85, exact decoy illustrated.

Gene Kangas, “Gus Wilson, Folk Artist,” Decoy Magazine, Lewes, DE, November/December 1994, pp. 8-13.

Robert Shaw, "Bird Decoys of North America," New York, NY, 2010, p. 149, similar decoy illustrated.

Copley Fine Art Auctions, "The Sporting Sale 2015," Plymouth, MA, July 25, 2015, p. 241, lot 6, rigmate illustrated.

Copley Fine Art Auctions, "The Donal C. O'Brien, Jr. Collection of Important American Sporting Art and Decoys, Sessions III," July 19, 2018, p. 137, lot 54, rigmate illustrated.


Please email condition report requests to Any condition statement given is a courtesy to customers, Copley will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition.

$ 20000.00 ( Sold Price )



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