PREMIERE DECOY & SPORTING
COLLECTIBLE AUCTION Saturday November 19th
Dr. Paul Johnsgard Collection of Lincoln NE
Art Levernier Collection of Merril WI
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Dr. Paul A. Johnsgard
Dr. Paul A. Johnsgard, was a world-renowned professor of ornithology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln from 1961 until he passed away in 2021 at the age of 89. He was the world’s most prolific author on birds, publishing over 100 books, primarily on birds and regional natural history. He illustrated most of these books with his own photography and line drawings.
Interested in birds from early childhood, Paul decided to carve a wooden duck neckerchief slide for Boy Scouts. As a North Dakota teenager he carved and painted about a dozen small wood carvings, before setting aside his penknife to attend college.
In the late 1960s, and now a tenured university biology professor in Nebraska, Paul attended a local estate auction that happened to include a lot of 6 hand-carved mallard decoys. While admiring them, a local sign painter named Ralph Stutheit introduced himself, and although neither of them won the bid on the decoys, the two decided to begin carving decoys together. In 1970 they founded the Central Flyway Decoy Carvers and Collectors Club, which produced several world-class carvers, including Cliff Hollestelle. Paul carved his initial birds “decoy style,” from solid wood with oil paints, but later switched to hollow wood, with acrylic paints, and often with elaborate legs and mounted standing on driftwood bases. He also began collecting decoys, both antique and contemporary, amassing a collection of about 80 carvings. Many of these were carved and inscribed especially for him by fellow carvers. This entire collection will be auctioned in November.
Paul became a judge at numerous regional decoy shows and in 1975 the Central Flyway club convinced the University of Nebraska’s Sheldon Art Gallery to host a major exhibit of loaned antique decoys. Many of the carvings displayed at that exhibit were subsequently illustrated in the hardback book “The Bird Decoy: an American Artform” (Johnsgard, Paul A. (ed.) 1976). 3 of the carvings illustrated in that book (a Lesser Scaup by Ken Anger, and a pair of Redheads by Benjamin Schmidt) will be auctioned in November, along with 4 autographed copies of the book.
Between 1970 and about 1990 Paul carved only occasionally, generally while on summer vacations in Minnesota or during winter breaks from teaching at the university. He completed a total of about 70 carvings, primarily life-sized. A small handful of these carvings he gave as gifts, traded to fellow carvers, donated to non-profit organizations, or sold to a local museum, but the vast majority remain in the possession of his family. A total of 4 carvings done by Paul will be auctioned in November (an Anhinga, a Common Loon, and a pair of Common Mergansers).
The Levernier Collection
Collector - Arthur Hugo Levernier Jr.
Born: Aug. 24 th , 1927 - Aug. 2 nd , 2015
Home: Northbrook, Ill area
Background: Raise on Art Sr’s farm as a child. Arthur graduated from St. George High School in Chicago.
He was drafted into the US Army in 1945 and was stationed in Panama. Arthur worked for many years as
a firefighter in Glencoe, IL, and remained a member of the Professional Firefighters Association ever
since. He ran his father’s landscape business until 1981 in Highland Park, IL, before his retirement.
Arthur was an avid musky fisherman and grouse hunter and was very passionate about gardening, both
flowers and vegetables. One of his favorite places to spend time was his beloved home in Moose Lake,
WI that he had taken over from his parents in 1965 upon his father’s death. Arthur loved collecting
antiques and especially duck decoys. Every house Art had he proudly displayed all his decoys by building
shelves around the top 12” all his walls around every room where he put them on display. He tried his
hand at carving but never had the talent Art Sr. did. Art’s decoy collection spanned over 200 decoys
ranging from all species, mainly Illinois River and Midwest decoys.
Collector - James Arthur Levernier
Born: July 26, 1949 – Dec. 14 th , 2021
Home: Highland Park, Ill
Background: Jim was raised in the Highland Park area and after high school attended college. Jim
received his undergraduate degree from Marquette University in 1971. He went on to obtain his
master’s degree and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. He then settled in Little Rock, AR
and taught his entire 45-year career at the University of Arkansas/Little Rock. James shared the love of
the outdoors and collecting antiques with his father and grandfather. James’ decoy collection spanned
over 600 decoys ranging from all species from all over the country.