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Armand LaMontagne – Sculptor, Artist, Craftsman

American Sports Art is very proud to present the works of Armand LaMontange. 

While LaMontagne may be best known for his wooden sculptures, of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth at the Baseball Hall of Fame, his paintings deserve equal praise. 

One ever present theme in LaMontagne’s work is the use of wood.  Even when the art medium is ink and paper, every piece  includes at least one significant piece of wood.  Either a growing tree, or in the case of his baseball work – an ever present bat (or a whole stack of them!)

Many sports heroes have been immortalized by Armand LaMontagne, but none as often as Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. "I have tremendous respect for that man," Mr. LaMontagne said of Mr. Williams, his boyhood idol, who hit .406 in 1941. "He practiced, practiced, practiced and became the greatest in his sport. You can't teach that."

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Hard work has brought Mr. LaMontagne his share of rewards, too. His statues of Williams and Babe Ruth are in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Carvings of Boston sports legends Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, Carl Yastrzemski and Harry Agganis, a Boston University star who died at 26 while playing for the Red Sox, are in the Sports Museum of New England in Boston.

"He's probably the best wood portrait sculptor in the world," says Richard Johnson, the Sports Museum's curator. "His works are as vivid as someone standing next to you."
Ted Spencer, curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame, recalls his initial reaction to the statue of Ruth, with its pudgy face, massive bat, and cleats that resemble soft leather and suede. He says he circled it, laughing at its realism. "It's like you can look into the eyes and see the soul," Mr. Spencer says.

LaMontagne, who looks more like a construction worker than an artist in his flannel shirts and jeans, mingles easily with the athletes he carves and says it's important to engage in a little locker room banter to gain their respect.  He says he couldn't get Ted Williams out of his shop after the slugger's first visit.  "He had me swinging a bat," Mr. LaMontagne says.

Armand's gruff exterior hides a passionate perfectionist, however. After he completed a statue of Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics star walked into Mr. LaMontagne's workshop for an inspection.  To the artist's surprise, Bird had cut off his long head of hair.  "I said 'Larry, what are you doing to me? Are you going to keep your hair short?' I had to give the sculpture a haircut," he says.

As long as he is working with wood, Armand LaMontagne is happy. He loves the feel of a wood shaving curling at the end of a chisel and the fresh scent it emits.  He began carving as a boy and says he learned from years of mistakes. He got his first request for a statue of a sports figure -- Ruth -- when someone noticed a bust he did of Army Gen. George S. Patton.

"My whole life, I've tried to surround myself with wood."  The home LaMontagne lives in bears witness to his love of woodworking. It's a replica of the type of home found in Rhode Island 300 years ago.  He planed the wood, hoisted its rafters, raised its walls and cut the shingles -- all by hand. He also built the mile long stone wall surrounding his property and fashioned the period furniture inside.

His workshop is lined with hundreds of antique tools, rusted hatchets and aged wooden mallets. Dusty snapshots of Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Bobby Orr and others he has met and carved lie scattered among chisels and wood chips.
As he works, he shows his penchant for mischief. "Swear a lot, they can't print that," he tells a friend as a reporter stands nearby.  That side of Mr. LaMontagne got him into trouble more than 25 years ago, and he still refuses to comment on the incident. "You do foolish things when you're young," he says.

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