A sculptor of remarkable accuracy and nuanced observation, Melvin Johansen brought to his work a legacy of study of the natural world.
Born in 1915, Johansen devoted his life to the celebration of wildlife through reverent and joyous representation. He began his career as a taxidermist with the Snow Museum of Natural History in Oakland, California. Through his work at the museum, Johansen traveled throughout the Western United States, Mexico and Canada photographing and documenting various species in their natural environments. His work allowed him to study animal anatomy and form with an academic comprehensiveness. The photographs and sketches produced from these trips appeared in several natural history publications and films.
In 1972, Johansen retired as senior curator of the Natural Sciences Division of the Oakland Museum in order to focus on his artwork. The result was a body of work that represents the animal world with reverence and spirit. Johansen’s technical knowledge imbibes his work with authenticity and completeness. Despite his precision, Johansen’s unique style allows the work to transcend pure representation and serve as testimonials to the beauty of nature.
Vivid and assured, Johansen’s figures feature a loose, appropriately unrefined texture that prevents them from appearing overly technical and suggests movement and presence even when his subject is depicted at rest. His appreciation and insight of form leads to compositions of validity and grace.
With a select body of work, Johansen’s bronzes represent classic animal sculptures at their finest quality. Highly collected, his works are featured in private collections throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East.