‘Into the woods’ is probably not the most accurate title for a post describing the wide-ranging array of Cybis wildlife sculptures profiled below, but I think that with more than 50% of them qualifying as per habitat I can probably get away with it.
Beginning with the smallest woodland denizen, Deer Mouse ‘In Clover’ is 3.5” high and was produced only from 1970 to 1973, as an open edition at $65. It was designed by Susan Eaton. At introduction it was named Deer Mouse ‘Musha’ In Clover; the June 1970 U.S. Copyright Office registration shows it as “Musha In Clover, deer mouse”. Obviously, somewhere along the line Cybis decided to drop the mouse’s name. By the way, the genus name for mouse (Mus) is said to derive from the Sanskrit word musha which means “thief”!
The New Jersey State Museum’s collection of Cybis contains this group of four sample designs of this piece, varying in color and ‘accessory’. My favorite is the one at the far right (darker mouse, nibbling on the wheat spear); obviously, the retail piece would have been named differently if that one had been chosen. Perhaps he would simply have been called Deer Mouse ‘Musha’!
Musha’s European relative, the dormouse, was represented by Cybis in two colors. The 5.75″ high brown Maximilian appeared in 1977 and the albino female Maxine followed in 1978. Their introduction prices reflected the difference in coloration: Maximilian’s issue price was $250 while Maxine’s was $195. Both of them were retired in 1980. (Additional examples of dual-color sculptures are shown in Color Confusion.)
This special one-of-a-kind, dapper gentleman dormouse was done for a charity auction in 1978 and was one of 50 different open-edition animals that were whimsically dressed and decorated. All were given ‘names’ but the title of this fellow is unknown.
Staying in the rodent family for a bit, here is Prairie Dog ‘Poko’. Introduced in 1976 and retired before 1982, he is 8” high and wide and was an open edition with an introduction price of $245.
Chipmunk with Bloodroot was also introduced in 1976, as a limited edition of 500. Measuring 8” high and 9” wide and designed by Lynn Klockner Brown, I think this is one of their best smaller naturalistic flora/fauna pieces – not only for the chipmunk but the plant and habitat depiction as well. It should be noted that the porcelain stamens of the bloodroot (Sangunaria canadensis) flowers are especially delicate and very prone to accidental breakage. It was priced at $625 at introduction and was completed in Spring 1981 at $675. There is some uncertainty regarding the issue size for this piece; the often-erroneous early-2000s softcover book Price Guide to Contemporary Collectibles and Limited Editions claims that the edition size was only 225. I happen to own sculpture #253; however, edition size discrepancies are certainly not unknown, so that cannot be taken as verification either way. Cybis probably reduced the final issue size before closing.
Another rodentious relative is Woodchuck ‘Roly Poly’, a nonlimited edition designed by Lynn Klockner Brown. He makes quite the woodland fashion statement with his oak-leaf chapeau! He is similar in size to ‘Poko’ at 8” tall. Although his copyright stamp says 1987, he was a 1988 introduction at $375. He appears for $450 on the Cybis 1993 price list which is sadly rife with spelling errors and shows him as “Rolly Polly” … thankfully corrected in later years!
And how can we possibly overlook the industrious beavers? Beavers ‘Egbert and Brewster’ is a completed limited edition of 400 sculptures from 1981, measuring 6.5” high. The issue price was $285 which increased to $325 in 1982. The piece was retired before 1988. I have to confess that the pose of these two beavers always made me think that one of them must have one heck of a headache from gnawing too many tree branches that day and so his partner is giving him a cranial massage.
Cybis also created four squirrel sculptures, all of which are chronicled in Squirrelly Doings at Cybis.
An irresistible 1985 wildlife-pair sculpture is Otters ‘Baxter and Doyle’ …. I adore otters and could watch them for hours, given the chance. Cybis’ otter sculpture is a limited edition of 400, measuring 5.5” high and 11.5” wide. Issue price is unknown and it was retired before 1988, but the Cybis studio was selling “back stock” of this piece for $775 in late 1991 (though it was not on any of their retail price lists.)
Also by the waterside we might find the American Bullfrog ‘Enchanted Prince’ which was a 6” high open edition made for only a single year (1971-1972) at $250 retail. Rather than being an original design, this is an adaptation of an existing piece that was purchased by Marylin Chorlton. There was also a unique one of a kind version of this piece, created for the benefit auction mentioned earlier; an apron and bonnet were added, and the sculpture was given the name of Aunt Betsy Trotwood. It’s likely that the leaves and branch were not used for that sculpture, because they probably would have interfered with the specially-added decorations. A contemporary magazine article also described a “frog prince with a top hat and tie” as being another such whimsical adaptation.
This glazed white reclining stag may be one of the studio’s earliest deer pieces, probably from the mid to late 1940s to very early 1950s based on the form and style of the Cybis name. Sadly, this piece has significant crazing and the upper part of one antler is broken off, with evidence of a failed reattachment at that point. If measured to the top of the intact antler, it is 9.5” tall, a bit more than 5” deep, and 8.75” wide.
The catalog for the 1970 museum exhibit Cybis in Retrospect cites a 1955 piece called Fawn, described as being 4” high and done in the “stained glass” glazed color decoration. Although it was physically in the show, it is not illustrated in the book nor anywhere else that I’ve been able to find.
Another 1950s piece was the Woodlands Deer Scene. This would have been a glazed piece, probably with brown highlights, similar to the Woodlands Bear Scene shown in Bulls and Bears in the Cybis Market.
Desiree, the White Deer was created as part of Cybis “Fantasia” genre of sculptures as a limited edition of 1000 in 1981 and priced at $575, but the issue size was later reduced to only 400 the following year and then closed in 1984. She is 4.5” high which is a rather small physical size for a limited edition, and was designed by Susan Eaton. The color scheme shows that Cybis was not aiming for naturalism with Desiree; one catalog describes her as “an enchanted princess in the guise of a white deer” who awaited a prince’s kiss of true love to return her to mortal form.
Petunia, the Pet Doe is a 3” high nonlimited edition from 1987 at $110 and was $175 by the autumn of 1995. The two other Cybis deer sculptures are described later in this post.
Over the decades Cybis produced four different fox sculptures; the earliest, Fox in Woodland is mentioned in Cybis in Retrospect as being ca. 1953, produced in a glazed decoration (possibly stained glass??) and measuring 3” high x 8” long. Unfortunately there was no photo in the catalog, nor was it displayed in the accompanying museum exhibit.
The fox shown above, named simply Fox, was produced only during the early 1960s as an open edition in two color formats. The white bisque version shown here was made from 1963-1964, and the color version from 1963-1965. It is 3″ high and 6″ long. As shown in the photos, there was considerable variation in the color and glazing. This sculpture is the source of legendary “blue fox” whereby one of the color versions emerged from a firing as entirely, unmistakably blue. The occurrence is cited in Cybis’ 1970s catalog.
The close-but-not-exact dimensions provided by all sources to date does make one wonder if “Fox” and “Fox in Woodland” might be the same sculpture, especially since Cybis did many more glazed animal pieces in the 1950s than they did in the 1960s; however, the fact that Cybis in Retrospect mentions both pieces separately – as well as the fact that the second fox was done in the very early 1960s – seems to clearly indicate that Fox in Woodland was indeed a different piece.
Foxes ‘Chatsworth and Sloane’ dates from 1986 as a limited edition of 200; its introduction price was $425 and was $550 in 1988. The edition was closed sometime between then and 1993. The original name at introduction was American Red Fox Cubs ‘Chatsworth and Sloane’. This is one of my favorite Cybis animal sculptures, and not only because of the name! It is 7” high and 9” wide. These fox cubs were modeled from life on a litter of orphan foxes rescued, raised and returned to the wild by designer Lynn Klockner Brown.
The magnificent Arctic Fox, about to dine on some surprised lemmings, stands almost 20” tall and was a limited edition of only 100 sculptures in 1980, introduced at $4500, and completed in 1983. Sculpted by Charles Oldham.
Far more likely to be found in the barnyard than the woodlands, Burro ‘Fitzgerald’ was an open edition introduced in 1964 at $30. He was named in memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He was retired in 1983.
An Archive reader alerted me to an interesting snippet about Fitzgerald. According to Delores DeJohn, who is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as having the world’s largest collection of donkey items (690), he was designed as a replica of a figurine that Rose Kennedy presented to her son when he received the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960. I am trying to find confirmation of this from other sources but it’s certainly interesting enough to mention here in the interim! Supposedly, Fitzgerald was the late Ms. DeJohn’s favorite donkey figurine.
Almost two decades later this young Burro ‘Benjamin’ was released as an open edition in 1983, for $185. He is 5.25” high and was designed by Susan Eaton. For a number of years it continued to be sold under that name, but when Cybis began yearly adding sculptures to their second nativity set they decided to include Benjamin as one of the 1985 additions. In keeping with their format of making each nativity piece in both a full-color naturalistic version and also a plain white bisque version with gold accents, they did the same with this one and renamed it “Burro, Reclining”. It is the same sculpture as the 1983 edition in all respects except the name. See the Nativity post for his price history from that time forward.
Cybis’ charming Raccoon ‘Raffles’ became a collector favorite as soon as he was introduced in 1965; the advertising copy from Cybis explains his name as having been chosen “because he is such an engaging thief.” (shades of David Niven!) Standing 7.5” high, he was an open edition initially priced at $110, and was retired in Spring 1980 at $365. This was one of Lynn Klockner Brown’s earliest designs for Cybis after joining them in 1964.
The two photos are a good illustration of how the colors on a particular piece may vary as a result of the individual hand painting; the second example has much darker fur and a few of the cherries are depicted in different stages of ripeness. The first example is the typical coloration, and in fact I was surprised that this second one was not described in the auction listing as being an artist’s proof in view of the unusual intensity of the colors.
The following four sculptures have several features in common: they were all limited editions, are extremely large and detailed, and the larger version of each had a smaller and less expensive sculpture created from one element of the bigger one. These were the White-Tailed Deer group, the single Deer in Motion, the Charging Buffaloes group, and the single American White Buffalo.
White-Tailed Deer was a limited edition of 50 sculptures showing a group of three deer – a buck and two does – running through the forest. This is a large sculpture measuring almost 19” tall and 28” wide. Its original 1986 introduction price was approximately $9000 which rose to $11,500 by 1988 and then $13,975 by 1993. Some (perhaps all?) of these are unusual in that the phoenix logo is painted on, rather than being a mold impression.
The piece was created by freelance sculptor Jerry Klein who submitted a portfolio to Cybis in 1983 and was subsequently visited by George Ivers who was then the studio’s Art Director. Ivers explained that the studio was looking for a ‘motion’-based deer study. Although Mr. Klein’s finished model was delivered to them by 1984, the retail piece was not issued for another two years.
In 1990 Cybis also issued a separate sculpture named Deer in Motion using the buck from the larger (White Tail Deer) grouping. He is 13” high and 16” wide; the issue size was 750 and the price at the time of issue was $1500. He was $1975 on the November 1993 price list from Cybis. The example shown in this old snapshot is the one that I once owned and often used as a holiday table centerpiece; the extraneous “greenery and goldery” is, obviously, not part of the actual sculpture. This piece, as well as almost all of my Cybis collection, was sold in the early 2000s and was among the most challenging to properly and safely pack for shipment.
Where the Buffalo (Bison) Roam…
The deer sculptures were not the first wherein Cybis created a multi-animal grouping plus a single-animal release at the same time. This massive trio is among the heaviest sculptures that the modern studio released, because in addition to the very hefty porcelain elements it was mounted on a solid wood base. The prairie-grass elements applied to the top of the base are amazingly detailed, and just about as prone to accidental breakage as you might expect! The sculpture in this photo (#3) sold in 2012 for less than $1000 but it was described as having multiple areas of damage and bad/failed repairs to the ‘grassy’ areas.
The animal’s mold was initially based on a bronze sculpture brought to the studio in the 1970s by Marylin Chorlton, who requested that Susan Eaton adapt it for porcelain.
There is some confusion about the edition size and nomenclature of this piece. The 1979 Cybis catalog publication lists it as ‘American Buffaloes’, with dimensions of 16” high, 38” long and 14” deep (front to back) and an edition size of just a single sculpture that was created in 1975 as a one-of-a-kind piece not available for retail. However, a single white one (shown below) was available for purchase as a limited edition.
At some point between 1982 and 1987 the studio decided to produce the (formerly one of a kind) trio under the name Charging Buffaloes as a retail edition of 25; at least 20 were made. Their February 1988 price list shows it at $17,500… followed by a whopping increase to $24,900 in 1993 and an even more staggering one (to $35,000) in 1999. This is one of those sculptures whose 1990s price hikes by the studio simply bore no relation whatsoever to current market or economic realities.
The American White Buffalo, issued as an edition of 250 in 1975, is 13.5” high and 18” long. The edition was completed within two years and its closing price was $1500. This sculpture was physically separate from the accompanying solid mahogany base (not mounted into it via a toggle bolt) and thus these are sometimes offered for sale nowadays without the original and quite heavy base.
John Wayne, receiving a White Buffalo from Cybis sales representative Bill Hancock, at a retail gallery opening during the 1970s.
In the early 1990s Cybis inaugurated its Hall of Fame series of downsized reproductions of closed or retired sculptures; one of these downsized editions was the Buffalo II (a/k/a “HOF edition white buffalo”) in 1993. Measuring 11.5” high and 16” wide (exactly 2” smaller in each dimension than the original 1975 limited edition American White Buffalo) it was issued as an edition of 1000. The HOF version was offered in two colorways: in white at $1975 and in color at $2575. This sculpture does not have an accompanying wood base. Comparison of this HOF replica with the original 1970s American White Buffalo shows noticeably less ‘grass’ on the base and it does not display the same high level of workmanship either.
It so happens that the very first such animal that Cybis produced dates back to the 1960s and causes a bit of confusion itself! This earliest example was the Albino Buffalo, produced only 1964-1965, in white bisque. It is listed in their 1979 index as an open edition, 4” high (no other dimension provided) and priced at $15.
The very same 1979 catalog also lists (but does not illustrate) another which is named simply Buffalo, made from 1968-1978 as an open edition. Pieces that were produced from 1968 through August 1975 included an accompanying rectangular wood base; as of September 1975 the base was discontinued. Over that 10-year period its retail price rose from $40 to $85. It is normal for this piece to have small grey felt circles affixed to the bottom of the hooves, by the way. This piece is 3” high and 5.5” long not including the accompanying base (the 1979 Cybis catalog has a typo showing 5” as the height and fails to mention the base). All of the brown versions bear the name CYBIS in block letters plus the year 1968 in the mold within the belly area.
I am embarrassed to admit that although we once owned one of these Double-Buffalo pieces, I cannot for the life of me recall the circumstances surrounding it other than that it was during the 1970s. It was most likely a dealer-event piece, and there’s a good chance that we got ours from Brielle Galleries. It was never on any Cybis price list which is another indication that it was an annual event piece.
This photo shows that the two buffalo were simply joined at two spots with either porcelain ‘slip’ or good old Eastman 910 glue. It is quite possible that this piece, either as an annual event piece or as a dealer promo available at Cybis’ higher-volume dealers, dates from 1975 which was the year that the limited-edition American White Buffalo was introduced. If someone could not afford the $1500 edition, this piece would have been much more affordable (probably in the $150-$175 range.) I do not recall whether this piece came with a separate dark-wood base.
This reclining bison is a small test piece from 1982 that was never produced for retail sale. It is 10″ long but only 4″ high.
The naturalists among us will already have spotted the error in the Cybis studio’s naming of the retail pieces: The animal depicted by all of the sculptures (including the test piece) is the American Bison (Bison bison), whereas buffalo live in Africa and Asia….not North America. Although most people call the American animals “buffalo,” that is not correct. Bison are easily distinguished from buffalo by three characteristics: Their horns are short and simple in shape, they have a ‘hump’ along their back at the shoulder areas, and they have a “beard” below their chin. All of the Cybis sculptures have those characteristics and so they should have been named accordingly (as American Bison, Charging Bison, Albino Bison, and Bison) for retail sale. However, they obviously chose to use the more familiar (though incorrect) term “buffalo” instead.
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