Orville Bulman (1904-1978) Entente Cordiale 33 x 68in (Painted in 1968-69.)

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Lot 17W
Orville Bulman
Entente Cordiale 33 x 68in

Sold for US$ 112,575 inc. premium

American Art

22 May 2019, 16:00 EDT

New York

Orville Bulman (1904-1978)
Entente Cordiale
signed and dated 'Orville Bulman 1969' (lower right) and signed again, dated '1968' and inscribed with title (on the reverse prior to lining)
oil on canvas
33 x 68in
Painted in 1968-69.


  • Provenance
    Hammer Galleries, New York.
    Mr. William Haggin Perry, Buchanan County, Virginia.
    Private collection, Virginia, acquired from the above.
    By descent to the present owner.

    D.C. Pollack, Orville Bulman: An Enchanted Life and Fantastic Legacy, Toronto, Canada, 2006, pp. 221, 255, fig. 267, illustrated.

    Orville Bulman was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1904. During his young life his father became the founder of a highly successful dispenser company, Bulman Manufacturing Company. Orville was expected to follow into the family business, but always had an interest in the fine arts. Before entering into the manufacturing business, Bulman briefly studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and worked as a newspaper cartoonist. Though dedicated to helping his father run the company, Bulman could not forgo his artistic aspirations and in 1937, made the first public debut of his work. He would juggle these careers as a businessman and artist throughout his professional life and became president of his family's company in 1954.

    By the mid-1940s, Palm Beach, Florida became Bulman's second hometown, where he frequently exhibited his work. His work gained a strong following and frequently held solo exhibitions at galleries in Palm Beach. A body of work on African American subjects in the segregated Southern United States from this period garnered great attention. In the 1950s, Haiti and its people as well as other Caribbean islands served as significant inspiration. As Bulman honed his skill and further developed his unique style, he began approaching more complex subjects and drew heavily on his imagination.

    In 1963, Bulman began working on a series of Jungle scenes that would soon become highly regarded by his peers, as well as the public. The unique interplay of man and beast is a thoughtful one with little discord. One of his most notable influences in this series was Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), while his later works, including Entente Cordiale, often appear as odes to Edward Hicks' (1780-1849) Peaceable Kingdom. Bulman saw the world itself as a jungle, but one for which he held great admiration and awe. He noted, "I believe I am trapped in this world of jungles...but there has never been a more enthusiastic prisoner." (D.C. Pollack, Orville Bulman: An Enchanted Life and Fantastic Legacy, Toronto, Canada, 2006, p. 255) The most distinct characteristic of these works is that Bulman's array of species all coexist happily. Tigers and lions, animals that would never cohabitate in nature, frolic freely with giraffes, horses, etc., with no animosity. The human figures that Bulman strategically places in these works are not hunters or poachers but appear to live in harmony with these fantastic beasts, in many instances even walking them on leashes or riding them, as though it were a natural occurrence.

    From 1965-1978, Bulman held a studio in Manalapan, Florida, whose tropical environment no doubt provided further inspiration for his jungle scenes. His work became more complex through depicting diverse vegetation and use of color. It was during this period that Bulman painted Entente Cordiale. The title itself further lends itself to the nature of Bulman's work, as the Entente Cordiale was an agreement between nations that would usher in a period of prosperity and peace. A very large-scale work, rich with multiple variations of flora, Entente Cordiale references the tropical climate Bulman was working in at the time. The assortment of creatures here is also much more complex than earlier works, containing multiple lions, tigers, and giraffes, as well as numerous silhouetted figures. The colors are vibrant and lively, which pose a strong contrast to the figures themselves. Some figures guide the lions and tigers on leashes, while two others who mount the giraffes sit calmly atop them. In Entente Cordiale, as is typical in the best examples from Bulman's imagined, artistic world, all of the exotic characters seem at ease, thoughtfully observing one another.
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