May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

Hudsonian Curlew Weathervane

Artist unidentified Improvement

Seaville, New Jersey

c. 1874

Gold leaf on sheet metal with iron straps

46 1/8 x 92 1/4 x 3/8"

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Gift of Alice M. Kaplan, American Folk Art Museum trustee (1977–1989), 2001.3.2

Photo © John Bigelow Taylor, New York

Artist unidentified

Hudsonian Curlew Weathervane

Discretionary income and time for entertainment were byproducts of growing economic stability and industrialization. Activities that were once associated with survival, such as hunting, were now practiced for sport. The stylized abstraction of this large silhouette weathervane would have presented an irresistible shooting target cut against the sky. In fact it was made for a nineteenth-century shooting club in Seaville, Cape May County, New Jersey. Before legislation limited the hunting and shooting of wildfowl and other birds, they were slaughtered on a wholesale scale for sport, food, and fashion. This weathervane is in the form of a Hudsonian curlew, one of the species popularly hunted in the area. The unidentified maker used iron strapwork and applied iron to create an abstract simulation of the markings along the curlew’s face and one wing on the side of its body. The Curlew Bay Club was informally established about 1874, and incorporated two years later. It resembled a small hotel, with ten bedrooms on the second floor, and two bedrooms and a large dormitory room on the third. The weathervane, perhaps made in a local ironshop, was situated on a forty-square-foot, two-story barn behind the clubhouse. By 1890 the club was operated as a year-round sportsman’s retreat and summer campground.

Stacy C. Hollander, “Hudsonian Curlew Weathervane,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.