By Kevin Wright©2012
The Oradell Artist
Charles Livingston Bull purchased four lots of land, bordering Seminole and Woodland Avenues in Oradell Heights, Midland Township, Bergen County, New Jersey, from David B. Helm, of New York City, on September 24, 1906. The agreement stipulated that the buyer could only build a one-family, private residence at a cost not less than $2,500. His decision to settle comfortably in the suburbs of New York was undoubtedly related to growing demand for his artwork. He illustrated L. Frank Baum’s Animal Fairy Tales for The Delineator (January-September 1905), and Jack London’s Before Adam and White Fang in 1906.
Charles Livingston Bull was first listed as a member of the New York Zoological Society in 1907. In March 1908, Charles and Fannie Bull sailed to British Guiana for a tour of South America, returning with many sketches of tropical wild life. With Charles R. Knight, he sailed to Bermuda, composing pictures of marine life. Charles L. Bull, artist, and Fannie E. Bull, returned to New York from Barbados aboard the S. S. Clarense in May 1908. He published illustrations of the tropical creatures he encountered in the 1909 edition of Charles Waterton’s Wanderings in South America, a book that had fascinated Bull in his childhood. Bull published his own chronicle of his nature studies in the jungles of British Guiana in Under the Roof of the Jungle: A Book of Animal Life in the Guiana Wilds in 1911. It contained 60 full-page plates “and many drawings from life.” Frank M. Chapman, editor of Bird Lore, an official organ of the Audubon Societies, found the book entertaining and its illustrations of “high artistic merit,” but cautioned readers “that one might spend his life in Guiana or any other part of tropical America and not see a fraction of the events, which Mr. Bull here records after a few weeks’ experience.” He concluded that, if Bull’s illustrations were literally “not from life, he owes it to himself and to the public to say so in terms which leave no doubts as to their meaning.”
Subsequent travels took Bull to New Orleans, Glacier Park, Charleston, S.C., Florida, and Canada, where “he saw every bird that came within his line of vision and was always enthusiastic and anxious to see the next." The 1910 Who's Who in America noted that Charles L. Bull painted six murals installed in the main lodge at Fish Rock Camp on Upper Saranac Lake, built in 1893 by Isaac Newton Seligman, a prominent New York City banker and partner in J. & W. Seligman & Company, and rebuilt after a fire in 1904. He exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, National Academy of Design, and the Art Institute of Chicago between 1899 and 1917.
Dr. William T. Hornaday, Director of the New York Zoological Park (Bronx Zoo), joined several trailblazers of the American scouting movement in organizing the Camp Fire Club of America in 1904. After a trip to London in 1909, Chicago magazine publisher, William D. Boyce, was inspired to found the Boy Scouts of America, bringing disparate scouting organizations together under one banner. Charles Livingston Bull, whose name is inscribed on the Big Game Honor List of the Campfire Club of America, befriended several scouting pioneers, most notably, fellow illustrator, Daniel Carter Beard (1850-1941), who founded Boy Scout Troop 1 in his hometown of Flushing, New York, and became one of the first National Scout Commissioners, and Ernest Thompson-Seton, author of Wild Animals I Have Known, and organizer of the Woodcraft Indians in 1902. A close friend of William D. Boyce, Charles Livingston Bull chartered Boy Scout Troop 1 in his hometown of Oradell on February 11, 1911. He contributed consistently to Boys’ Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America.The 1913 and 1915 editions of the Oradell Directory for Hackensack, N. J. list Charles Livingston Bull as an artist resident on Seminole Avenue in Oradell.
Prairie School architects, William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie, commissioned Charles Livingston Bull to design and paint a fireplace mural for the Edna S. Purcell house in 1913. He was so well known that the Minneapolis Tribune announced his arrival in November 1914. Bull's mural depicts Louisiana herons flying over an implied body of water with two moons above. Purcell explained how the painting fit into his unified design, saying, “I wanted a real wall decoration in my living room; one which would preserve the essential character of the wall, that of flatness.”
Referring to one of Bull's most widely known images, circus historian Neil C. Cockerline expertly opined, “Probably the greatest image ever produced as a circus poster design was that of a leaping tiger, designed by the noted illustrator Charles Livingston Bull in 1914." Cockerline thought, "This particular image may well be the most recognizable circus image in history, and it is still utilized today, often appearing in set and costume designs in current productions of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus."
On January 14, 1915, Charles Livingston Bull purchased another lot from the Oradell Heights Land Company. On the Iowa State Census for 1915, Charles Bull, of Stillman, Mason City, Iowa, identified himself as a “painter,” earning $9,000 over the previous year. He reportedly spent two years in Iowa. He illustrated J. H. Stickney’s Aesop’s Fables, published by Ginn and Company, of Boston, in 1915.
According to his draft registration card, Charles and Fannie Bull resided on Seminole Avenue, Oradell, in September 1918. During World War I, Charles Livingston Bull, along with Gibson and other artists, was instrumental in organizing the Department of Pictorial Publicity and his patriotic posters of American eagles were widely printed and distributed, some to the number of more than a million. Serving on the National Commission of Fine Arts, his patriotic contribution to the war effort included War Bonds’ posters and reviewing and redesigning all army insignia at the request of the Secretary of War in 1918.
Working under supervision of architect William Gray Purcell, Charles Livingston Bull and Charles S. Chapman created advertising for Alexander Brothers’ offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bull also provided twenty-five black-and-white illustrations for Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Tarzan the Untamed”, published in Red Book Magazine, March through August 1919. Charles and Fannie Bull spent the winter of 1920 at the Snyder Outdoor School for Boys, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. In 1923, Fred T. Everett, newly employed as Director of the Phoenix Art Institute Scholarship Competition, called upon art-school teachers to serve as judges, including Charles Livingston Bull, Franklin Booth, Norman Rockwell and Coles Phillips.
Working extensively in advertising during the Nineteen Twenties, Charles Livingston Bull produced ads for Keds and N. W. Ayers & Son. He also illustrated popular dog stories, such as Ralph G. Kirk’s Six Breeds, published in 1923; Clarence Hawkes’ Silversheene, King of Sled Dogs, published in 1924; Walter Dyer’s All Around Robin Hood’s Barn: A Canine Idyll, published in 1926; and George Marsh’s Flash, The Lead Dog, published in 1927. He worked consistently on book illustrations, most notably Samuel Scoville’s Lords of the Wild (1928) and Olaf Bakerand Olaf Baker’s Shasta of the Wolves (1929).
By his own estimate, Charles L. Bull took “about ten hours to draw an ordinary animal picture.” (Boys’ Life, December 1928) He generally worked from four in the afternoon until two in the morning. From his home in Oradell, he traveled annually to the South and to Canada, living in the open to study the natural habits of wildlife. The Federal Census for 1930 lists Charles Livingston Bull and his wife, Fanny E., as residing on Seminole Avenue in Oradell with their maid, Adele Huick. In December 1931, the Michigan Tuberculosis Association published four Christmas Seals posters, entitled, “Sleep,” “Eat” “Bathe” and “Play,” featuring Charles Livingston Bull’s distinctive artwork.
According to his friend, Beecher Scoville Bowdish, Charles Livingston Bull “much preferred watching the wild creatures alive than dead, so he didn't often use a gun—He was always looking for the beauty of the beautiful and I have heard many say that it was this trait that made him so delightful a companion in the field.—He was gentleness and kindness itself and the most unselfish of men.—He was so eager to see the first robin this spring, just before he died and watched from the window daily. I am glad to say he saw one, but not long after he passed from our sight. His work here was ended but the memory of him will never fade and in one sense of the word he will be here always."
Charles Livingston Bull, animal painter, illustrator, naturalist, explorer and author, died at his home in Oradell on Tuesday, March 22, 1932, at 57 years of age. His death reportedly resulted from an illness that developed from an old back injury. Funeral services were held at his home on Seminole Street and he was interred at the Hackensack Cemetery. His widow, Fannie Elizabeth Bull, died in 1945.
Charles Livingston Bull was long associated with leading lights in the field of scientific exploration and research, including Dr. William T. Hornaday, Roy Chapman Andrews, William Beebe, Carl Akeley, James Clark and others. He was active in the American Forestry Association and the American Ornithological Union, where he promoted bird banding as an aid in the study of migratory habits. In addition to his work in the field of natural science, he was recognized as an expert taxidermist. Charles Livingston Bull’s “animal illustrations were so much in demand by many of the popular magazines that fiction of animal storywriters would often be held back until Mr. Bull could find time to illustrate it…."
According to his obituary, "It was always a question in Mr. Bull’s mind, which phase of his activities he liked best, his research and exploration work or his work as a painter and illustrator. He frequently said that his most thrilling moments came to him when he found an opportunity to portray the ideally beautiful thing at the moment of greatest beauty.”
“He was an exhibitor in most of the National Academy displays and the Salmagundi exhibitions and also had many traveling exhibitions in other American cities. Charles Dana Gibson said recently that he was the most beloved artist in the Salmagundi Club. His paintings have won many honors, among them the Shaw prize. Mr. Bull has written fiction as contributions to leading magazines and a number of scientific papers, particularly relating to the subject of ornithology, and has done a great deal of work on the Central and South American jungle. At one time he maintained a private zoo, with many fine specimens, at his home in Oradell.”
“Mr. Bull was a member of the Institute of Graphic Arts, the Society of Illustrators, the Architectural League, the National Academy, and New York Water Color Club.”
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 F. M. C., “Book News and Reviews,” Frank M. Chapman (editor), Bird Lore, An Illustrated Bi-Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Study and Protection of Birds, Vol. XIII—1911, (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 210
 See MIA, “Unified Vision: The Architecture and Design of the Prairie School,” http://www.artsmia.org/unified-vision/purcell-cutts-house/hearth-2.cfm