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Art Environments

Collection Series

James Tellen, WI

 

James Tellen, Native American Family tableau (site detail, Woodland Sculpture Garden, Black River, WI), c. 1942–57. John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection, gift of Kohler Foundation Inc.

James Tellen, James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden (site view, We Whistle While We Work tableau, Black River, Town of Wilson, WI), c. 1942–1957. John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection. Photo: 2005, John Michael Kohler Arts Center Artist Archives.

James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden (site view, Black River, WI), c. 1942–57. John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection, gift of Kohler Foundation Inc.

 

c.1880–1957

Beginning in 1942 and continuing until his death in 1957, James Tellen (1880–1957) created over 30 historic, religious, and mythic figures within the woods surrounding his family's summer cottage in the Black River area of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Tellen was first inspired to make a sculptural environment after a stay in a local hospital, where he became inspired by its marble statues and intriguing naturalistic grottos.

Tellen merged his love of nature and his deep-seated spirituality in a series of large-scale concrete sculptures, creating an assembly of both life-size and miniature characters. His renditions of braves and frontiersmen, religious and patriotic icons, and an assortment of poignant, devout, and sometimes humorous tableaux are arranged in lifelike scenes, integrated into the woodland surroundings in a highly naturalistic manner.

Kohler Foundation, Inc. acquired and preserved the Woodland Sculpture Garden 1988, which today is part of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection.