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
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
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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."
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.
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
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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