The Art and Soul of the Hunt

TJC Gallery, Spartanburg, South Carolina
September 4, 2018 – November 12, 2018

As the South sought to recover—emotionally, economically, and environmentally—in the decades following the Civil War, early conservationists of both the intentional and accidental variety began rehabilitating the region’s scarred landscape. Along the South Carolina coast, most of the rich, loamy soil that had once produced ninety-five percent of the nation’s rice had fallen fallow. These tidal properties—intersected by miles of drainage canals and scores of dikes—became attractive investments for wealthy Northern financiers and industrialists who viewed the purchase of declining plantations as the perfect convergence of profit and pastime, and transformed the farms into hunting retreats. In 1898, a dozen separate such properties were combined to form the Santee Club, a 23,000-acre expanse described in 1907 by a New York Times reporter as “probably the finest shooting preserves on the Atlantic Coast.” Over time, a collective commitment to preservation outweighed members’ personal pleasures, and in 1974 the Santee Club deeded its property to The Nature Conservancy, a gift considered to be “one of the single most valuable private donations to conservation in the history of the United States” to date.

This exhibition features a large selection of work by noted wildfowl artist Richard Bishop, who was one of the Santee Club's few honorary members. An engineer by training, Bishop married his artistic expression to his lifelong passion for hunting. Game birds were Bishop’s subject of choice, and he faithfully recorded their motions and migrations in various habitats up and down the Eastern Seaboard—on land and water, and on the wing. Paintings by John Tracy, Aiden Ripley, Eugene Thomason, Edmund Ashe, Alice Smith, Thomas Addison Richards, and Anna Heyward Taylor complement the Santee story.