Finely Carved & Nicely Painted: The Life, Art and Decoys of George H. Boyd, Seabrook, New Hampshire 1873-1941
by Jim Cullen, photography by Andrew Davis

Jim Cerny, reviewer

Finely Carved & Nicely Painted
(title page).
This is an easy book to review because the subject matter is interesting and both the content and the production values are excellent. The book is a must-have for the serious decoy collector, but also has great appeal for someone interested in folk art, or for someone interested in local history since Boyd lived and worked in Seabrook, New Hampshire.

As a graphic book it excels, with color illustrations on nearly every one of its 96 pages. To paraphrase the book's title, we could say it is finely designed and nicely printed! If you are familiar with the catalogs from Northeast Auctions, it is the same team: photography and layout by Andrew Davis, with printing design and production by David B. Livesey. The author, Jim Cullen, is a Rye resident, long-time decoy collector, and a consultant on decoys to Northeast Auctions.

The book starts with a sketch of Boyd's life, which he spent entirely in Seabrook, working as a shoemaker, sometimes market hunting, and increasingly carving. His life and carving span a time from the end of market hunting, to hunting for sport, and then to decoys sought as decorative art. Boyd himself is almost unknown even though his decoys have been widely collected and illustrated, a void this book now fills:

"Finely carved and nicely painted" are not the author's words chosen to describe the work of George Boyd. They are the words of arguably the most famous collector, student, and critic of decoys, William F. Mackey Jr. [...] He was familiar with Boyd's work and elected to include a photo of two Boyd shorebirds in the book [American Bird Decoys]. The caption next to the photo reads: "Shorebirds by a prolific, but unknown maker." "They are finely carved and nicely painted." (Cullen, p. 8)

Canada goose, life-size canvas-covered 27-inch decoy, circa 1910. p. 30.

Boyd carved hunting decoys, decorative decoys, and decorative miniatures. Over 65 bird species are represented by his miniatures and estimates of his production range from 700 to 1000 there is a corresponding emphasis on miniatures in the book.

George H. Boyd, p. 86.

Puffin miniature. p. 81.

Blue-winged teal drake, life-size decorative decoy, circa 1935. p. 40.

At one time Boyd sold his miniatures to retail giants like Abercrombie & Fitch for only 50 cents. According to author Jim Cullen, at a recent auction even in this depressed market, results for Boyd birds included (without a 15% buyer's premium) a miniature at $1,650 and a yellow legs shorebird (the most easily found of Boyd's birds) at $6,000.

The book is in a limited edition of 500 copies, with a price of $65, available only from the author. Contact Jim Cullen, P.O. Box 888, Rye, New Hampshire 03870 (603-964-9918).

May, 2009