Gilded wings spread wide in regal majesty . . . A razor-sharp beak emitting a fierce scream, defiant and proud . . . The flag and shield of the American nation held safely in the steely grip of a raptor’s talons . . . Such are the trademarks of one of the most recognized and sought-after pieces of American art: the Bellamy Eagle. Widely considered to be the pinnacle of American woodcarving, the Bellamy Eagle vies with such hallowed icons as the Statue of Liberty, the Great Seal of the United States, and Old Glory itself in representing the United States. Yet what of its creator? Who was the man responsible for giving flight to this most celebrated piece of Americana?
To write American Eagle: The Bold Art and Brash Life of John Haley Bellamy author James A. Craig spent five years in detective work, examining all the newly-available evidence of the carver’s life and career. His heavily illustrated biography examines the master’s carving with new appreciation and documents his continuing influence on woodcarvers to the present day. Passionate and thrilling, this narrative returns life to a man intent upon celebrating the glory of the American nation he so loved. Craig has given Portsmouth back one of her favorite sons.
"CRAIG’S COLORFUL ACCOUNT of Bellamy’s life and career vigorously argues for a man with a vision for his art. Creating a body of work that was ambitious both in scale and sheer volume, Bellamy translated his skills as shipcarver into a populist decorative form that was potently infused with his nautical upbringing and surroundings. Craig’s work offers tremendous depth to our appreciation of Bellamy’s quintessentially American sculptures." — Daniel Finamore, Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History, Peabody Essex Museum
"JIM CRAIG’S RICH AND ENGAGING STORY of the life and work of John Haley Bellamy is a tremendous contribution to the literature on American sculpture. These masterful carvings, born of commerce and meant to ornament the daily life of the young Republic, are inextricably tied to American culture at its most fundamental level. Craig’s masterful volume imparts a fascinating and unforgettable look at Bellamy’s life and times and the breathtaking artwork for which this remarkable artist is so justly renowned." — Paul S. D’Ambrosio, President & CEO, Fenimore Art Museum & The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY
"JOHN HALEY BELLAMY, a legendary name in American nineteenth-century woodcarving, spawned numerous imitators in his own time and inspired many subsequent copyists (and the occasional forger). By applying a connoisseur’s eye, Jim Craig has done a convincing and invaluable job of identifying the diagnostic features of Bellamy’s eagles and other works and thus separating them from related contemporary examples, modern reproductions, and fakes. Moreover, through taking a fresh look at primary sources—some newly discovered— he tells Bellamy’s story for a wide audience in an engaging and lively manner in a work that will become the standard biography of this important American carver for years to come." — Gerald W.R. Ward, Senior Consulting Curator and the Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture Emeritus, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston