(1843–1907). Sculptor. The first significant American sculptor to specialize in animals, he especially favored large species native to the West. His example contributed to widespread popularity of animal subjects during the late nineteenth century and into the early years of the twentieth. Desiring particularly to record those threatened by encroaching civilization, Kemeys traveled extensively to observe animals in their native habitats. His broadly realistic treatment of them precisely registers characteristic demeanor and temperament. Born in Savannah, Georgia, he grew up in the Hudson River Valley near Ossining, and then in New York. Visits during his teenage years with Illinois relatives in Dwight, southwest of Chicago, stimulated his interest in frontier experience. After serving in the Union army during the Civil War, he farmed in Illinois for two years. In 1868 he found work in New York's Central Park, where zoo animals attracted his interest, and he soon developed proficiency at modeling them. Apparently without any professional training, in 1872 he completed his first public commission, a life-size bronze Hudson Bay Wolves Quarreling over the Carcass of a Deer for Philadelphia's Fairmount Park (later moved to the zoo). In 1877 he sailed for a year abroad, first in London and then in Paris. He successfully exhibited his work in both cities and was able observe the recent French practice of vibrant animal sculpture. Reestablishing his studio once again to New York, he produced much of his finest work before leaving for Chicago in 1892. There he created a number of pieces for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. He remained in the area during the 1890s, completing several important commissions, including the pair of bronze lions at the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago (1894). After two years in the Southwest, Kemeys relocated in 1902 to Washington, D.C., where he died.
From The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists in Oxford Reference.