Above: Gustav Dentzel (American, born Germany, 1844–1909), Goat, ca. 1907. Basswood and pigments, 57 x 60 x 11 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Larry and Gail Freels, 2019.94.4.By Karen Christian and Scott Shields

The Crocker Art Museum is delighted to welcome to its collection six hand-carved carousel animal sculptures by top makers from the golden age of carousels. The menagerie includes a deer, giraffe, horse, goat, bear, and greyhound, and is a generous gift from the renowned collection of the Freels Foundation.

The golden age of carousels spanned the 1880s through the 1920s, when resorts and cities throughout the United States and England featured them in their amusement parks. Most carousel animals were horses and were based on the French 17th-century origins of the ride. Additional menagerie animals were later added, including lions, tigers, giraffes, deer, rabbits, goats, pigs, ostriches, bears, and dogs.

Gustav Dentzel (American, born Germany, 1844–1909), Horse, ca. 1907. Basswood and pigments and hair, 60 x 62 x 12. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Larry and Gail Freels, 2019.94.6.

The best carousel carvers were highly trained, their work literally sculpture in motion. Today, carousel sculpture is grouped into three basic carving styles: the Philadelphia Style, the Coney Island Style, and the County Fair Style, the latter being smaller, more simply carved animals intended for traveling fairs.

The Philadelphia Style includes figures by The Dentzel Company and is generally considered the most realistic and graceful. The Dentzel Company created the giraffe, horse, goat, and bear now in the Crocker’s collection. Daniel Müller apprenticed at the Dentzel company prior to founding his own company, D.C. Müller & Bro., in 1902. Müller’s training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is evident in the skillful carving of the deer.

D. C. Müller & Bro. Company (active 1903–1914), Standing Deer (detail), ca. 1908. Basswood with pigments, 54 x 69 x 11 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Larry and Gail Freels, 2019.94.3.

In contrast to the Philadelphia style, the Coney Island style boasted flashier decoration, including silver or gold leaf and sometimes glass jewels. This ornate style is exemplified by Charles Loof’s classic greyhound.

The sculptures are now installed inside and just outside the Crocker Art Museum’s Setzer Foundation Auditorium. High resolution images of all six carousel animals are available upon request.)

Click HERE to see our blog featuring a video slideshow of the carousel animals images.

Christine Calvin
Director of Marketing and Communications, Crocker Art Museum
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Charles Looff (American, born Denmark, 1852–1918), Greyhound, ca. 1896. Poplar wood with pigments, 73 x 55 x 11 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Larry and Gail Freels, 2019.94.2.

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Through engaging, innovative, and life-changing interactions with art, the Crocker Art Museum provides meaningful opportunities for people of divergent backgrounds to find common ground. Founded as a public/private partnership in 1885, the Crocker features the world’s foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of master drawings and international ceramics, as well as European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art. The Crocker serves as the primary regional resource for the study and appreciation of fine art and offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to deepen visitor’s understanding of art, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, and an array of activities for families and children. More information about exhibits and programs can be found at crockerart.org