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Robert Winthrop Chanler, muralist, painter, grandson of John Jacob Astor, and otherwise known as Sheriff Bob Chanler to his friends. The NYT printed full-color photos of a screen of the Leopard and the Deer and the mural from the crow room in situ at the Rokeby House in the slideshow accompanying the article on the same.
Chanler is perhaps best known for his piece, The Giraffes, which was completed in 1905 and purchased by the Salon d’ Automne during his time in Paris. The geometry and intricacy of his work might descend from classical narrative tapestries or suggest an ancestor to the stripped-down, though vibrant aesthetic of Fred Tomaselli, or the embroiled wildlife studies of Walton Ford. Others, such as Nightmare, which is paired with Porcupines and housed at the Met, suggest a relish of detail and scope of action reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch. The meandering compositions of Henri Rousseau, whose Hungry Lion was also completed in 1905, offer a more generally appreciated, though when viewed through the prism of The Giraffes, seemingly related aesthetic.
Chanler’s screens occupy an unusual aesthetic space. They are neither mural nor canvassed art. Instead, they invoke a fin de siècle fascination with Asian formats and styles: among them, the screen. Chanler seizes and exploits the medium. Said to be an homage to a ferocious ex-wife, Chanler’s Leopard and the Deer rolls on casters in a black, ebonized frame around and across the reception room to Rokeby House, as though stalking its inhabitants. The principal leopard rises and curls over and down upon the frozen struggle of a white stag. It’s knees bent, with one fore-leg struggling to stand, the stag looks skyward and accepts the leopard’s toothsome embrace over neck, chest and back. Meanwhile, the leap of leopards rollick up a hill in pursuit of still more prey among the narrow cover of a sparsely placed forest. It’s a scene that rises and falls with the search and capture of desperate and vulnerable prey. It’s a scene that feels like might animate the screen itself and send it around the room in pursuit of the odd and unfortunate visitor.