Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Primitive Man

Edgar Walter (American, San Francisco, California 1877–1938 San Francisco, California )
ca. 1902–3, cast ca. 1905
13 1/2 x 15 x 15 in. (34.3 x 38.1 x 38.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Isaac N. Seligman, 1907
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774
In this richly textured depiction of a muscular youth lifting a protesting bear cub by the scruff of its neck, Walter refers to man’s evolutionary superiority over beast. In this case, man dominates, even in his baser state, as indicated by the rudimentary loincloth and headdress. This theme was popular with turn-of-the-twentieth-century French and American sculptors responding to contemporary interest in natural selection and evolutionary principles following the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859.
Inscription: Signed (left side of base): E. WALTER
Isaac N. Seligman, New York (until 1907; his gift to MMA)

Paris. Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees. "Salon: Ouvrages de Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture, Gravure et Lithographie des Artists Vivants," opened May 1, 1905, no. 3723 (as "Homme primitif") [possibly this cast].

"Principal Accessions." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 2 (May 1907), p. 87, ill.

Albert TenEyck Gardner. American Sculpture: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1965, p. 129, ill.

Joan M. Marter in American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Thayer Tolles. Vol. 2, A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born between 1865 and 1885. New York and New Haven, 2001, pp. 618–19, no. 284, ill.

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