The porcelain sculptures of Edward Marshall Boehm are prominently featured in the permanent collections of museums and government institutions around the world, including the Vatican, the Smithsonian Institution, the White House and Buckingham Palace. Now one of the largest collections of Boehm sculptures in Oklahoma has been donated to Rogers State University, where it can be seen by the public free of charge at the Stratton Taylor Library on the RSU campus in Claremore.
Bill and Betty Holman of Claremore have donated their personal collection of 57 Boehm sculptures to the RSU Foundation. The sculptures depict several species of birds in their native habitats in North America.
“The university is very fortunate and proud to be the recipient of this prestigious collection of art,” said RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley. “We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Holman for bequeathing the collection to the university, which will enable future generations to enjoy these sculptures in our library.”
Boehm (pronounced “beam”) was one of the world’s leading wildlife sculptors of the 20th Century. He died in 19??. In addition to wildlife, Boehm’s intricate porcelain sculptures feature flowering plants, various world events and religious figures. The artist employed several varieties of fine porcelain, as well as earthenware, stoneware and terra cotta, to create the sculptures. He finished them by hand with glaze and decorative paint.
Boehm co-founded the internationally known Boehm Porcelain Studios in Trenton, N.J., with his wife Helen Boehm in 1950. Mrs. Boehm continues to serve as chairman emeritus of the company.
Boehm worked at the studio for most of his life, producing thousands of limited-edition sculptures. He was commissioned by heads of state and other dignitaries to commemorate significant world events. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon commissioned him to create sculptures that were provided as gifts to foreign leaders, including Queen Elizabeth, Pope John Paul VI and Chairman Mao Tse-Tung of China.
Collections of Boehm sculptures also can be seen at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the presidential libraries of Presidents Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
The Holmans admired Boehm’s aviary sculptures for many years and began collecting them in the 1980s. Like most collectors, they began by acquiring a few small pieces. Through the years, they increased the size and scope of their collection, buying the sculptures through the Boehm mail order catalog, at galleries and gift shops during their travels throughout North America and from antique dealers in the secondary market.
“We have received so much enjoyment from the birds through the years, we thought it was important to share them with the public,” said Mr. Holman.
The Holmans agreed that the university would be an ideal place to maintain the collection for posterity and exhibit it for public viewing. Visitors can view the collection on the third floor of the library during regular hours, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Holmans are no strangers to RSU, having established four named scholarship endowments including the J.O. “Bill” and Betty J. Holman Endowed Scholarship, the Oscar H. Holman Memorial Endowed Scholarship, the Katherine A. Holman Endowed Scholarship and the Truman and Jetta Lou Gilbert Endowed Scholarship, named for Mrs. Holman’s parents. The endowments provide scholarships to students who require financial assistance to attend RSU.
Although the removal of the Boehm collection has left a void in their home, they continue to enjoy watching the birds attracted to the many feeders in their backyard.
“The beauty of the natural world is so important to us,” said Mrs. Holman. “We thought that sharing this collection would be one way to encourage appreciation and preservation of our many species of birds.”