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James Lindsay McCreery (American 1901 – 1970)

Don Quixote de la Mancha, 1926, terracotta relief sculpture, signed, dated, and titled verso, 11 x 11 x 3 inches


About the Sculpture

James Lindsay McCreery’s rare terracotta sculpture depicts one of the most famous passages from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. In Chapter 8, the knight errant, Don Quixote, mistakes windmills for giants and in an effort to win the love of Dulcinea attacks the imagined beasts only to be unceremoniously thrown from his horse, Rocinante. Cervantes wrote, “So saying, and commending himself with all his heart to his lady Dulcinea, imploring her to support him in such a peril, with lance in rest and covered by his buckler, he charged at Rocinante's fullest gallop and fell upon the first mill that stood in front of him; but as he drove his lance-point into the sail the wind whirled it round with such force that it shivered the lance to pieces, sweeping with it horse and rider, who went rolling over on the plain, in a sorry condition. Sancho hastened to his assistance as fast as his ass could go, and when he came up found him unable to move, with such a shock had Rocinante fallen with him.” Unlike many artists who have portrayed Don Quixote astride Rocinante in a faux heroic pose, McCreery shows us the consequences of “tilting at windmills.” In the main viewing angle, McCreery gives us a high relief modernist nude Don Quixote with his elongated figure sitting ingloriously beneath Rocinante after having been thrown from his horse. Don Quixote is alone, shaken and momentarily stripped of vainglory (and all his clothes and armor). In the reverse viewing angle, McCreery’s two dimensional “drawing” of the same scene depicts the action as Don Quixote might have imagined it, with a noble knight rearing up on his powerful stead before launching into a full gallop to defeat the threatening giants. The contrast between the high relief reality of the front of the work and the artificiality of the two-dimensional “drawing” on the verso seems to remind us of the dangers of fighting imagined enemies.

About the Artist

James Lindsay McCreery was a multi-faceted sculptor, designer, architect, author, and illustrator who worked in California and New York. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, but in his youth McCreery lived in Northern California before relocating to New York. He studied at the University of California, Berkley, class of 1923, where he served as the President of the Architectural Association. City Directories and voter registrations from the late 1920s, when he sculpted Don Quixote de la Mancha, indicate McCreery resided in Oakland, California, where he was listed as either an architect or architectural designer. An article in the May 5, 1929, edition of the Oakland Tribune illustrated a Japanese-influenced home designed by McCreery to be built in Montclair Highlands. McCreery exhibited at the “No-Jury” Art Show at the Berkley Art Museum (1929), the Art Center in Manhattan with the Art Alliance (1931), the Galerie Beaux Arts (1932) and Brooklyn Museum of Art (1934) and the 48 States Competition (1939). During the 1930s, McCreery worked on WPA projects and completed a 1939 mural for the Monett Missouri Post Office entitled “Products of Missouri.” Textile designs attributed to McCreery are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In addition to his architectural, design and fine art practices, McCreery was an author and illustrator. He was best known for two well-reviewed youth-oriented books, Exploring the Earth and Its Life in a Natural History Museum and At the Zoo and At Home. McCreery is listed in Who was Who in American Art and all other standard references.


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