Charles Hart is why I carve penguins.
I've written about Hart's work before and won't recover old ground. You may read an excellent biography on the Ward Museum website. His work has also been featured on an early episode of Antiques Roadshow. (Unfortunately the Antiques Roadshow archives search is not cooperating. I'll keep trying to post a link.)
I was already penguin primed when discovered Hart's work. I loved them at the zoo and was enthralled with Robert Lawson's illustrations in Mr. Popper's Penguins. (I love Lawson's illustrations in all books!).
Though Charles Hart penguins have been an inspiration to me, until yesterday -- at the Decoy Show -- I had never seen them in the flesh.
Russ Goldberger, of RJG Antiques, offered me the opportunity to handle and photograph a pair of 6" penguins. As I looked them over he discussed the characteristics of a Hart penguin -- legs extend through holes in the base and wings, feet and beak are applied. I examined Charles' faint pencil signature and description on the base.
Though my penguins' pedigree begins with Hart's penguins, mine are not copies. I feel that traditions are important but it is also important to carry traditional work forward. My penguins have a bit of Mr. Popper's Penguins in them and a dash of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition.
The Byrd Expedition is the reason for all of penguin popularity of the 1930s. The nation was flush with pride for Byrd's (and his crew) achievements and were bombarded with penguin images in film and print. Mr. Popper's and Charles Hart's penguins were part of this fervor.
I'm not the only one caught up in 1930s penguin fever. The McNair family -- Carver Mark McNair and his carving sons Ian and Colin -- had a few penguins at their table.