Russell B. Aitken
Russell B. Aitken (1910-2002) lived during the golden age of American outdoorsmen, hunting and fishing across great expanses of wilderness where animals were kings. A figure Hemingway might have borrowed from real life, Aitken was the quintessential competitor, talented and determined, as focused in stalking a Cape buffalo or shooting pigeons as he was in collecting art. His safaris and shikars took him across five continents, and his travels developed his eye for beauty, as well as his keenness for the hunt. Photographer, marksman, teacher, writer, artist and collector, Aitken amassed awards and honors representing an extraordinary range of accomplishment. He won over 40 major titles as an expert marksman and numerous awards and prizes as an artist working in ceramics and sculpture. Examples of his art are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney and the Cleveland Museum of Art. He was the author of more than 300 articles in national sporting and natural history magazines, publishing his first illustrated article at the age of twelve. He received the Medal of Honor of the Adventurers Club of New York and the Medal of Honor of the Campfire Club of America.
Aitken's passion for art and natural history inspired his collection of wildfowl decoys. For him, decoys represented American sculpture, matching his lifelong interest in shooting with his appreciation for the elegance of the birds and the artistic accomplishment of the carvers. Like many a hunter, he came to understand the fragility of wildlife and with his wife, Irene, worked to protect it. He was an early benefactor of the World Wildlife Fund, Ducks Unlimited, the International Crane Foundation, the National Audubon Society and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Few men have the abilities that gave Russell Aitken so much success in so many areas. His activities created a joie de vivre of the greatest intensity. His legacy brims with achievement, and those who knew him cherish the memory of a man who sought excellence, and found it, in everything he did.
"Barbers by trade, Lem and Steve Ward began working as a decoy carving team in their father Travis' shop in Crisfield, Maryland in 1918. Until the 1950s their carvings were cedar body hunting decoys. It was around this time that Lem began making decorative decoys that were destined for the collector's shelf."