Gaston Etienne LE BOURGEOIS 

Sculpture in fruit tree wood. Bears the artist’s monogram.
Unique piece
Circa 1940
Height: 8,27 ″
Width: 16,54″
Depth: 5.91″

Related work: Snowy Owl, linden wood, Height: 23 cm – Length: 35 cm, private collection, Gaston Le Bourgeois (1880-1956), exhibition presented by the S.A.V.R.E (Sauvegarde Architecturale du Vieux Rambouillet et son Environnement), Bibliothèque Florian – Rambouillet, September 1996, reproduced No  12.
Bibliographical reference: Art & Décoration, January 1916, p.21; Edward Horswell, Sculpture of Les animaliers 1900-1950, London, 2019, p. 206 to 209.




Although Gaston Le Bourgeois worked with various materials such as stone, ivory, and even cement or lead foil, it was wood he preferred by far. He shaped indigenous wood such as boxwood, fig tree, pear tree, plane tree as well as precious essences such as Ebony, rosewood, Ambon wood or teak.

Having always lived surrounded by animals, his models were willingly chosen from a familiar bestiary (cat, rabbit, hen, duck, pigeon, cow, ferret, guinea pig…) but also more exotic (llama, cockatoo, lion, agouti cat, coati…), he observed, as many other artists, in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris or in the zoological park of Antwerp. This is the case with our Snowy Owl. This raptor, which originates from the Arctic regions, is a variety of owl also known as polar owl, white owl or arctic owl. It can be recognised by its thick, dense down that protects it from the extreme cold, its round head and its big yellow eyes. Gaston Le Bourgeois made it in the round in fruit wood, probably cherry wood. While inscribing the owl in a triangular shape that perfectly renders the bird posed, casting a searching look all around him, he admirably featured its volume, with its curved lines, from which only the eyes and beak stand out. Once again, Gaston Le Bourgeois, while adapting the animal to the form he imposed on it, succeeded in preserving its way of being and its character: the animal remains alive.  The sculptor prepared his work with very precise drawings and clay sketches cast in plaster which he then used as a model. Thus, although our sculpture is a unique piece, there is another copy of the Snowy Owl, but in an inverted position and in lighter lime wood. This was a subject the artist had in mind early on, since the same birds can be found in a confronted position in a panelling’s bas relief made for Madame Doucet’s boudoir, before 1916.

We would like to thank Noël Cailly, the artist’s grandson, for all the valuable information he handed on to us.