Living in Maine in the mid 80's, Leo Osborne was inspired to carve two merganser ducks after seeing them playing in the springtime ritual of a mating dance on water.
As Leo recounts the story :
"A 4 foot long piece of redwood lace burl had been sent to mefrom California it came to be THE MERGANSERS.
Years later the request was made to me to send a sculpture to Great Britain for the 1996 International Wildlife Art Auction at Christie's South Kensington. With much enthusiasm I made the arrangements with Christie's and THE MERGANSERS was selected to go to auction. It went to the UK, paid for by me, the artist.
The auction occurred, I was sent one of the catalogues and the piece did not sell. Damn, what to do with it now! As life's unusual events transpired, I was asked by a friend and exceptional British painter of wildlife, Alan Hunt, if I would like to have him take it to the gallery that he showed in, The Halcyon Gallery. I said yes that sounded like a great idea, as I had no representation in the UK and with artist associates that I knew there I felt it could be a good thing to introduce myself to the British audience. I loved British Comedy and so I thought maybe they would like my art! This was a kind request of Alan and got me out of having to ship it back to the US.
I gave him consent to take it to Halcyon. At that time in my life I was going though a dark night of the soul and I did not put my total attention on this event in the UK. There was no email back then and it was only through word on the phone that this all occurred…no paper trail! I did not do the proper follow up work with calls and paperwork with signatures of those involved. Somehow, somewhere and by someone the sculpture fell into a hole. No one knew of where it went. I thought it was simply gone, vanished and someone must have removed it from the gallery. It was not possible for me to go the London to look for it, and I did try to have Alan and others see if they could find out anything…..but nothing! It remained that way for years and finally I simply forgot about it and figured that I would never see that piece of art again. I kept the catalogue and the paperwork from Christie's showing that the piece was in fact in that auction. All that I could do was to accept the fact that the piece was going, going, gone!!!
On October 9th, 2010 I received an email from a gentleman in London, a Mr. Dykes who sent with the email a picture of yes, THE MERGANSERS. Fifteen years later from going into a black hole the piece resurfaced at a little auction house in South London. This man Mr. Dykes loves wood and when he saw the piece at auction he bought it. Not until taking it home and looking closely did he see my signature and looked me up on the www and contacted me. I could not believe it! When I wrote him and told him the story, he could not believe what he had purchased.
This sculpture had gone to auction in 1996 for $5000 and Mr. Dykes has not told me how little he must have paid for the piece today in 2010. In my letter of authenticity to him I quoted the current value of what that piece should be insured for and it is now $20,000.
No one knows where the piece was for these 15 years. I have currently contacted Halcyon Gallery and they definitely have NO record of any work by Leo E. Osborne ever being on their inventories. It is a mystery and I may never know what it did for all those years! These original sculptures are sneaky little things, like Tom Robbins writing about inanimate objects taking on a life of their own, I believe that sometimes happens with my original works when they go away and especially in this case where the piece was sent abroad and just wanted to have some fun for awhile! Oh well Mr. and Mrs. Dykes, you better keep a close eye on THE MERGANSERS for they can swim at whim!
The lost art is found, but once again the artist gets stiffed….But life still goes on and I keep creating…….
The rest of the story……..
My wife Jane and I had flown to Charleston South Carolina for the French Quarter Art Walk of December 2nd. We were walking towards my representative Martin Gallery when Jane looked into 111 Church Street, the Ingram Fine Art and Antique Gallery and said, 'Oh my god Leo, isn't that your Mergansers on that table?'
My sculpture of THE MERGANSERS had in fact swum the Atlantic and could have landed anywhere on the green planet, but decided to land in Charleston where I would once again be gifted by its presence!
For many years now it seems that Larry Ingram, who knew my work decades ago in Maine, has owned several of my wooden original sculptures. He found this piece on an EBAY Auction and bid on it. It became his and was shipped to him from London, arriving just about the same time that Jane and I had landed in Charleston…how bout that????
I walked into the gallery and picked up the sculpture and with tears in my eyes, caressed my original work after 15 years of its being lost. Kirsten Ingram, Larry's wife and dedicated partner came in to see me with the sculpture in hand and knew exactly what was going on. She too embraced me and the sculpture and together with my wife wept for this amazing moment in life and art!
An amazing coincidence??? Perhaps….
I went to Martin Gallery and told them what had just occurred. We were all in tears and beside ourselves with wonder and joy. Then, I mentioned a bit of the story and with that said the name Halcyon Gallery. Candace Martin, owner of the gallery said in shock, ' Just this week we were studying websites of galleries around the world to see what we liked best, as we are about to have our site redone. The one we all selected was none other than Halcyon Gallery of London.'
Life is so serendipitous and if we allow ourselves to be in that place of magic, then magic will happen to us and around us.
Other than our home on this little island of Guemes in the San Juan Archipelago of Washington, there is one place that we love to be and are spending more time each year and that is Charleston. I LOVE Charleston and I believe that I keep getting messages of how much Charleston LOVES my work. I feel very, very grateful.