Charles Rumsey

About the Charles Rumsey Estate

Charles Cary Rumsey, born in Buffalo, NY in 1879, was the second eldest of five children of Laurence Dana Rumsey and Jennie Cary Rumsey.  The family, having inherited a small fortune built by Bronson Case Rumsey in tanning and railroads, was both wealthy and socially prominent.  Charles Rumsey’s interest in sculpture appeared and was encouraged at an early age.  He was taken by his parents to Paris in 1893.  Instead of returning with them to attend school, he stayed in Paris for two years to serve as an apprentice to sculptor Paul Weyland Bartlett (whose father had been one of the early American champions of Rodin).

After returning to the United States in 1895, Rumsey completed college prep studies at the Nichols School in Buffalo in three years, and entered Harvard in 1898.  While at Harvard he joined the Porcelain Club, an exclusive association of young men from the most prominent families in America, making useful associations for a future sculptor. During the summers he attended school at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where he studied under Bela Lyon Pratt. After graduating from Harvard in 1902, Rumsey returned to Paris where he took a studio in the Latin Quarter and enrolled and the Julian and Colarossi Academies.  One professor, Emmanuel Fremiet, a specialist in equestrian statuary, devoted special emphasis to the study of the horse, and his training was to have a decisive influence on the young Rumsey.  Apart from sculpture, horses were the great passion of his life.  As a world-class polo player with the Meadowbrook Polo Club, (he was an 8 goal player)  he won many awards throughout the United States.  By the age of 23, he was also an amateur boxing champion in Paris.  In 1906, Rumsey returned to the US where he settled into a studio in 59th street in New York City, New York.  It was this year that his serious sculptural production began. 

 Around 1909, Rumsey began a series of sculptures to decorate the large manor at Arden, New York, being built by the railroad magnate, Edward H. Harriman (whose daughter, Mary, Rumsey he would marry in 1910).  One of the sculptors was a large bronze fountain of The Three Graces for the terrace outside. A recast of The Three Graces fountain was installed in 1987 in Mirror Lake in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery where Rumsey is buried.  When he returned to France in 1917 and 1918, during the war, it was as an officer in the 25th Cavalry Division of the United States Army. 

Rumsey’s specialties included equestrian sculptures – portraits of polo players and prize horses, as well as of cowboys, cattle and horses as metaphors.  He worked principally in bronze and stone, often employing mythology and historical themes articulated in private commissions for freestanding statuary and in public monuments. Before his premature death in 1922, his work was evolving towards both modern and  figurative works which are now compared to that of Henry Moore.

His 40-foot bas relief panels of Indians, horses and buffalos for the Manhattan Bridge and the heroic subject matter of Rice Stadium commission are examples.  Probably the artist’s most renowned work is the “Buffalo Hunt Frieze” executed in 1916 for the Manhattan Bridge in New York City.  But the flattened and simplified figures for the Brownville Memorial in Brooklyn (1921) were his most adventurous forays into “modernism”. In these powerful bulky figures he comes close to an Art Deco style.  Rumsey was one of the more notable sculptors working in the Beaux-Arts tradition, a monumental and grandiose style that was the chief mode of public sculpture of Rumsey’s day, yet he was far more than a standard producer of facile monuments.

In his brief career (he died in an automobile accident in 1922) he touched on realistic and quasi-impressionist styles and at some points tentatively introduces some modernism that was included in the historically renowned 1913 Armory Show in New York, the exhibition that is credited with the first major introduction of modern art to America.

Museum Collections

Museum of Modern Art, New York NY

Whitney Museum of Art, New York NY

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo New York

Cody Museum of Art, WY.

Nassau County Museum of Art, New York

Petit Palais, Beaux Arts Center Paris France 

Newark Museum of Art, New Jersey

Exhibitions

    • Pan American Exposition Buffalo, 1901
    • Architectural league of New York 23rd exhibition “National Sculpture Society Exhibition under the Auspices of the Municipal  Art Society of Baltimore,
    • Fifth Regiment Armory Baltimore, 1908
    • Architectural League of NY 24th Exhibition, 1909
    • Architectural League of NY 27th Exhibition, 1912
    • MacBeth Galleries NY “A Collection of Small Bronzes by American Sculptors” 1912
    • 1913 Armory Show, NY,
    • International Exhibition of Modern Art” Art Institute of Chicago, 1913
    • “A Collection of Small bronzes” MacBeth Galleries, National Sculpture Society, 1913
    • Kingore Gallery Exhibition NY 1913
    • Architectural league of NY 28th Exhibition
    • Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo NY “An exhibition of works by Buffalo Artists” 1914
    • Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania 1914
    • Panama Pacific International exhibition, San Francisco, California 1915
    • Bronzes from the Panama Pacific International Exhibition, Fine Arts Institute , Kansas City Missouri 1916
    • The Sculptors Gallery, “Exhibition of sculptures by Charles Cary Rumsey” N 9-4-1917-5-5-1917
    • The Thirty Second Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Bronzes at the John Herron Art Institute”  1917
    • The Art Association of Indianapolis , Indiana 1917
    • Exhibition of American Sculpture, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 1918
    • American Painting and Sculpture, Pertaining to the War” Knoedlers, NY 1918-1919
    • The First Annual Exhibition of the Society of Painters, Sculptors and Gravers, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1919
    • Exhibition by the Society of American Painters, Sculptors and Gravers, The Art Institute of Chicago 1920
    • The Architectural league of New York, the 36th Annual Exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Art NY, 1921
    • Carnegie Institute Exhibition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1921
    • The Architectural league of NY 28th Annual Exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 1923
    • Exhibition of American Sculpture, the National Sculpture Society, NY 1923
    • Exposition Retrospective de L’ourvre “Charles Cary Rumsey”, Societe’ Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1927
    • Exhibition of Sculpture, The Brooklyn Museum NY 1930
    • The American Society of Painters, Sculptors and Gravers, Whitney Museum of Art NY 1932
    • American Sculpture and Paintings, Museum of Modern Art NY 1932-1933
    • A Century of Progress, Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1933
    • The Centennial Exhibition, Department of Fine Arts Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Texas, 1936
    • Three Centuries of American Art, Organized by the Museum of Modern Art NY Muse’ du Jeu de Paume, Paris 1938
    • Sport in Art, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo NY  1948
    • A Survey of American Sculpture, late 18th century to 1962, Newark Museum of Art New Jersey. 1962
    • The National Art Museum of Sport Premier Exhibition, Madison Square Garden Center, NY 1968
    • The Horse in America, Monmouth Museum, Red Bank New Jersey 1970
    • American Art in the Newark Museum, 1981
    • Fidos and Heroes in Bronze, the Dog Museum of America, NY 1983
    • The Shock of Modernism in America Nassau County Museum of Art 1984
    • American Sporting Art, Anderson Galleries, NY 1986
    • Sporting Art, Anderson Galleries NY, 1988
    • Polo in America, in conjunction with American Cup Polo Tournament, Meadowbrook Polo Club NY Anderson Galleries 1994
    • The Horse in Art, Lynda Anderson Galleries, Locust Valley NY 1997
    • Sporting Sculpture, Lynda Anderson Galleries, Locust Valley NY 2002
    • The Horse in Art, 1850-1950 Lynda Anderson Galleries, Locust Valley NY 2005
    • The Dog in Art, Lynda Anderson Galleries, Locust Valley NY 2007
    • The Dog in American Art, Lynda Anderson Galleries, Locust Valley, NY 2009
    • American Sporting Sculpture and Paintings, Lynda Anderson Galleries, Locust Valley, NY 2012