Sporting Classics Digital

Jan/Feb 2017

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M ick Doellinger may live in Texas, but his accent carries the twang of a regional burr that's actually from a continent halfway around the world. Hailed as a rising star in contemporary wildlife art, Doellinger claims a path to prominence no other animal sculptor has taken. "He's led an interesting life, that's for sure," says Martin F. "Bubba" Wood, a dean of American sporting art and the longtime proprietor of Collector's Covey Fine Art Gallery in Dallas. "Mick's one of those nice, mild-mannered guys you meet, but then your jaw drops when you hear of the places he's been and how damned astute he is about art. But it's his work that really stands out." Born in Germany in 1956, Doellinger is the son of parents who emigrated from Europe to Australia. A former rodeo cowboy, he once wrestled steers and rode bucking bulls. Known for his sophisticated approach to the animal form, he perfected his feel for animal anatomy and mass by boning out thousands of domestic sheep, Art by todd Wilkinson Mick Doellinger's cliMb as a wilDlife sculptor has been baseD on pure outback aDventure. kangaroos, and Asiatic water buffalo in meatpacking plants. Doellinger has an enigmatic résumé, but one might never know it by his unassuming personality. Instead, he makes potent first impressions through his classical portrayals of African and North American subjects, noted for their nuanced, polished patinas. You gaze upon them and believe you understand the essence of the man. W hen Doellinger and I spoke recently, he was back in his studio along Lake Weatherford west of Fort Worth. Outside, whitetail bucks were sparring in the rut. Doellinger and his wife, Katrina, had just returned from a "research trip" stalking moose and hiking through the brown bear-dense mountains of the Canadian Yukon. On his sculpting table was a Cape buffalo and the maquette of a bison soon bound for the foundry. Bubba Wood, who dropped by earlier, told me he was certain Doellinger's buffalo piece would sell out just as quickly as two earlier bronze editions depicting the great, surly beasts. Doellinger's instincts with form are impressionistic; he admires how Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916) and Paolo Troubetzkoy (1866-1938) communicated the spirit of their subjects—Bugatti as one of the famed 19th century animaliers following in the footsteps of Antoine-Louis Barye and the Russian-Italian Troubetzkoy with human figures. "There are many great contemporary sculptors I admire in the U.S. today, as there are in the UK," says Doellinger. "Some are loose, others tight, along with those who tend to work more abstractly. Like them, I have no desire to make little literal replicas. I want to touch the emotions of the viewer." He recalls encountering Joseph Edgar Boehm's public monument outside the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, depicting the martyr St. George on horseback slaying the mythological dragon. "I stood in awe." One of Doellinger's early mentors was the Melbourne-based sculptor Willliam Ricketts (1898-1993), known for his terra- 84 • S P O R T I N G C L A S S I C S

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