Raised on a farm in a devout Quaker community, Harvey familiarized himself with the animal kingdom at a young age. He studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy and traveled on to Paris, spending twelve years painting and sculpting animals. Figurative by default, he was against abstraction and believed that sculpture should express the beauty of nature as God intended. Most famously, Harvey rendered an eight-foot-tall sculpture of a bear that was adopted as the mascot of Brown University.
“Beauty has its beneficent purpose in life whether in nature or in art, to those with eyes, ears, and hearts keyed to the infinite.”
—Eli Harvey, Eli Harvey: Quaker Sculptor from Ohio, 1966
After training in Paris under noted animalier Emmanuel Frémiet, Harvey drew inspiration from his visits to the Bronx Zoo, observing the posture, carriage, and behavior of the inhabitants he found there. Recumbent Lioness is a masterful rendering of the animal’s grace and poise, and could only have been completed by an individual well-versed in the musculature and anatomy of the wild animal.