This animal sculpture, referred to alternately as a panther or a mountain lion (both names for the same species, Felis concolor), is by Edward Kemeys (1843–1907). Situated on a rock in a thicket beside Central Park’s East Drive at 76th Street, the bronze feline crouches on a natural rock outcropping in a masterful example of site-specific art.
Kemeys was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1843. His interest in animals is said to date from a summer when, at age 13, he lived on a farm in Illinois that was surrounded by frontier wilderness. After serving as an artillery officer in the Civil War, and an unsuccessful attempt at farming, he was employed in the late 1860s for two dollars a day as an axe-man on the engineering corps that prepared the grounds for the construction of Central Park.
Kemeys later recalled that while working in Central Park, he took pleasure in observing wild animals, and was inspired in 1869 when he saw an old German sculptor fashioning the head of a wolf at the Central Park Menagerie. “Quick as lighting came the thought…I can do that!” Kemeys reminisced. He soon obtained modeling material, and began crafting a sculpture of a wolf himself. Three years later, Kemeys received a commission for his sculpture, Two Hudson Bay Wolves Quarreling Over the Carcass of a Deer, which stands in the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia.
Buoyed by his early success, Kemeys traveled west in 1872-73, where he hunted, lived with Native Americans, and studied wild animals in their native habitat. His Fight Between Buffalo and Wolves was exhibited at the Parisian Salon of 1878. In 1883, Kemeys made Still Hunt, which was cast at the local Maurice J. Powers foundry, given to the City, and placed in Central Park.
Kemey’s smaller bronze castings of animals gained the attention of the Art Institute of Chicago, which in May 1885 mounted a special exhibition of his work entitled “Wild Animals and Indians.” Through his affiliation with the Institute, he received the commission to sculpt the lions that flank the entrance of the museum; they were unveiled on May 10, 1894. The bronze statues were based on earlier models Kemeys displayed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago the previous year.
Up until his death in Washington, D.C. in 1907, Kemeys sustained an active career as a sculptor, producing numerous small bronzes as well as large-scale commissions. His colossal head of a buffalo is in the Pacific Railroad station in St. Louis, and 50 of his bronzes are in the collection of the National Gallery.
Still Hunt combines convincing natural observation with stylized detail. In 1937, the Parks monuments crew repatined the piece and secured it to the natural rock outcropping. In 1974, the sinuous tail was stolen, but a restoration in 1988, under the auspices of the Municipal Art Society’s Adopt-A-Monument Program, replicated this missing feature and reconditioned the surface of the bronze statue. Today, the Central Park Conservancy maintains the sculpture, which continues to inspire awe in weary and unsuspecting joggers as they arrive at the crest of Cedar Hill.
Still Hunt Details
- Sculptor: Edward Kemeys
- Description: Crouching panther (over life-size) on boulder
- Materials: Bronze, natural rock
- Dimensions: H: 2'7" L: l 5'
- Cast: circa 1883
- Dedicated: 1883
- Foundry: M.J. Power
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