Before Dr. Seuss famously penned his children’s books, Tehodor Seuss Geisel was already dabbling in the discovery of odd creatures. It all started in Springfield, Mass as a young boy. When he moved to New York, his father was in charge of the local Forest Park Zoo.
He would send young Theodor Seuss Geisel horns, beaks and antlers from animals that perished at the zoo. He began this project while in his New York apartment in the early 1930’s.
The zoo animals that had met their demise lived on as their bills, horns, and antlers were shipped to Ted’s New York apartment to become exotic beaks and headdresses on his bizarre taxidermy sculptures.
Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Coming from a generation of master brewers, his father worked in a brewery until prohibition. In the interim, he would work odd jobs including an eventual job with the Parks service.
The zoo was a beloved part of Theodor’s childhood. If his father wasn’t able to accompany him and his sketchpad there, he would go with his mother or his sister, Marnie. Early on, Ted’s mother became his “accomplice in crime,” encouraging him to draw animal caricatures on the plaster walls of his bedroom. Only later, when T.R. became the superintendent of parks, did he also become an unexpected resource, who now aided and abetted his son’s artistic efforts.
In 1937, the artist’s sister, Marine, said jokingly “They have a charming apartment on Park Avenue, New York, but it is so filled with his animals that I am apt to have a nightmare whenever I visit them.”
The actual unveiling of these works didn’t really become known to the public until 1997, when the sculptures and other private works of art began traveling to museums. In fact, Geisel had asked his wife that his sculptures and other artworks never be seen by the public until after his death in 1991. He referred to this as the “Secret Art Collection”.
Despite the demand for his art in his living life time, there have been no limited edition works conceived, authorized or created since his wife, Audrey, created the project for his exhibitions 6 years after her husband’s death.
“His unique artistic vision emerged as the golden thread which linked every facet of his varied career, and his artwork became the platform from which he delivered 45 children’s books, over 400 World War II political cartoons, hundreds of advertisements, and countless editorials filled with wonderfully inventive animals, characters, and clever humor.
Geisel single-handedly forged a new genre of art that falls somewhere between the Surrealist Movement of the early 20th century and the inspired nonsense of a child’s classroom doodles.”
Sculptor Carl Turner has also created a series of creatures similar to the style of Dr. Seuss. These creatures are half-realistic, half-fantastical mounted animal heads that were seemingly poached right out of a Dr. Seuss book. According to Turner’s back story for this project, these extinct specimens were acquired by zoologist Erasmus P. Jiggins and Sir Bartholomew Scoffer during an 1863 expedition to a lost island somewhere in the Pacific:
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