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silla was born out of a passion for beautiful objects: special pieces with aesthetic and historical significance. In 2009, after years of collecting, Andrew Silla and his wife Grace began to work privately with clients from their residence in Southern Maryland. Quickly outgrowing the space, the business was moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania in 2012 and after several warehouse location changes it was firmly settled in the present brick-and-mortar location in downtown Shippensburg.

The 9000 square foot brick-and-mortar gallery is home to a large collection of works of art and estate jewelry. We specialize in sculpture circa 1860 through 1930 with a particular emphasis on the Animaliers and as such the gallery always has a very large collection of exceptional European and American sculpture available on display.

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"The Desert Rat" (1928) " | J. Clinton Shepherd

Shepherd, J. Clinton

Regular Price: $14,000.00
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catalog text

United States, 1888-1975

"The Desert Rat" (1928)

Patinated bronze | signed "(c) 1928 J. CLINTON SHEPHERD", cold stamped "GORHAM CO FOUNDERS QGCB"

Item # 405KOB04A 

An exceedingly rare cast of J. Clinton Shepherd's study of a Western miner and his pack mule titled "The Desert Rat", it features a tired old-timer with his worn and weathered features trodding along with his pickaxe resting on top of the full pack and a sturdy walking stick in his other hand. The sheer rarity of the cast perhaps is due to the timing of his model, which was modeled in 1928 and started production at Gorham almost in sync with the beginning of the Great Depression. Shepherd saw his income from sculpture dwindle to such a degree that he was forced to begin illustrating thriller novels during the 1930s. The only other model we have seen on the open market was offered at Christie's in New York on November 30th of 1990 (lot 86) with an estimate of $ 10-15,000. An example of this sculpture is recorded in the Smithsonian American Art Museum index of American Art as being preserved in the permanent collection of the University of Delaware (acc. no. 64.2.007); it is also held in the Birmingham Museum of Art (acc. no. 1978.41).

Joy Clinton Shepherd was born on September 11, 1888, in Des Moines, Iowa, to Charles and Emma Shepherd. He was the third of five children, and his family lived on Twenty-third Street. His father, a men's suit salesman, enabled Joy to attend college after high school. Joy studied at the University of Missouri at Kansas City before leaving in 1909 to travel to the Northwest with his brother, where they lived with the Crow Indians and learned their customs.

In 1910, Joy moved to Chicago and enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago where he graduated in 1914. He subsequently studied at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design and afterwards worked as a freelance artist. He married Gail English, a fellow art student, in 1915. In 1916, he joined the Illinois National Reserve as a bugler. Despite a hearing defect, he served until 1919 when he moved to New York City to work as a freelance artist for magazines like Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post.

Joy adopted the signature "J. C. Shepherd" and found success throughout the 1920s. He and Gail moved to Westport, Connecticut, and had two children, Joy and Charles. In addition to illustration, he pursued a career as a sculptor of western bronzes.

The Great Depression shifted his work to pulp magazine covers, and he created illustrations for Popular Publications and Blue Book during the 1930s. In 1938, Joy relocated to Florida to teach at Barry College and later became the Director of the Norton Gallery School of Art in Palm Beach during WWII. He opened a private studio in 1947, painting portraits and murals.

Joy Clinton Shepherd passed away on June 20, 1975, at the age of 86, following a heart attack.

While his work as an illustrator and painter is widely regarded, it is for his sculpture that he is most recognized and appreciated. A sculptor in the naturalist tradition, his work is realistically conceived and serves as an exacting portrait of cowboy life and the experiences of those living in the untamed West.

Artist Listings & Bibliography:

  • Bronzes of the American West, Patricia Broder, 1974, p. 261-262

Measurements: 16 3/8" H x 6 5/8" D x 14 3/8" W

Condition Report:
Exquisite original condition. Very faint rubbing to the patina. No observed flaws. An exceedingly fine presentation, carefully cleaned and conserved with conservator's grade wax.