Albert Laessle1877 - 1954
Born: March 28, 1877, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: September 4, 1954, Miami, Florida
The second son of hard-working immigrants from Wurttemberg, Germany, Albert Laessle was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1877. Upon finishing his public school education, Laessle decided that he wanted to pursue art as a career, though his parents did not approve. Luckily, his older brother Henry encouraged his talents, financially supporting Laessle so he could study at the Spring Garden Institute in 1894. He went on to attend the Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) in Philadelphia and later studied under Thomas Anshutz and Charles Grafly at the Pennsylvania Academy. Laessle received the Cresson Traveling Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy and spent three years in Paris, working with Michel Beguine. In preparation for his trip, Laessle studied anatomy, life drawing, and still-life painting, and also modeled portrait heads. In 1907, he returned to Philadelphia and worked in Grafly's studio. From 1920 until 1939, Laessle was an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy.
Unlike many animalier sculptors, who focused their attention on mammalian subjects, Laessle specialized in reptiles and birds, often depicting lizards, turtles, frogs, and barn fowl. He modeled realistic and detailed animals at close to life-size and viewed his animal sculptures as representing the conditions of man; each animal, whether alone or coupled, seems to possess a narrative purpose. There is little of Laessle's work circulating today, as he was not a prolific artist, and he created rather small, limited editions.
Laessle received numerous awards, including the J. Sanford Saltus Award from the American Numismatic Society, the Stewardson Prize, and the Fellowship Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy. He also received the Gold Medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, the Gold Medal at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition, the Widener Medal, and the James E. McClees Prize. He was a member of the National Sculpture Society, the National Academy of Design, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Societe des Amis de la Medaille de Art.
Laessle's work is recognized in many private collections and museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art. He executed a few monumental public sculptures including Billy, a still-popular goat located in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square, and the Pennypacker Memorial in Logan Square, also in Philadelphia.