Burt Brent is one of the most unique wildlife sculptors in the United States. A world-renowned San Francisco-area surgeon specializing in ear reconstruction, Brent has changed the lives of over seven thousand patients, mostly children. He uses his surgical skills to sculpt not only human cartilage but sensitive and expressive animal sculptures.
The son of a surgeon, Brent has been fascinated with anatomy and the natural world throughout his life. At the age of thirteen, Brent apprenticed in a taxidermy studio where he was able to study body form and musculature. After completing medical school, Brent’s interest in nature-related art emerged as he began work in plastic surgery.
Brent’s entrance into the wildlife art world occurred in 1987, when a friend suggested he make a sculpture for an auction at Sotheby’s to benefit Rhino Rescue, a campaign to establish a preserve for the Kenyan rhinoceros population. Brent sculpted and donated a bronze rhino, his first work as a professional sculptor; the piece was an instant success. Since then, Brent has balanced sculpting with a busy surgery and teaching schedule.
While striving for it as a surgeon, Brent avoids realism when working with bronze and steel. His sculptures flow gracefully in lines that accentuate the natural beauty of the animals he depicts. Brent stresses symmetrical lines over anatomical detail, thus emphasizing the animal’s overall grace.
I wouldn’t describe my work as being impressionistic. I have much more fun when I take liberties. I would describe my work as being stylized.
Brent’s numerous awards include the Allied Artists of America’s Gold Medal of Honor and the North American Sculpture Exhibition Burgess Award. He has also received the Society of Animal Artists’ Donald Miller Memorial Award, the Member’s Choice Award, and the Award of Excellence. He donates his sculpting talents to such organizations as the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation, as well as creating pieces for individual conservationists, art collectors, and naturalists. Public collections of his work include the San Diego Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin.