Black Horse Sculptors

A few sculptors also helped create promotional elements for Black Horse beer. Most of their work was designed to promote the brand emblem. The biographical notes for these artists appear below, in descending order of importance in the Musée’s Dawes Black Horse collection.

Ross Butler (1907, Norwich, Ontario – 1995, Oxford County, Ontario)

A self-taught artist, farmer and breeder, Ross Butler was commissioned by the Ontario government in the 1930s to paint true types of North American livestock breeds to be used for agricultural education and breeding purposes. His theories of animal proportions significantly influenced agricultural scientists at Ontario’s University of Guelph. In 1997, he was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame, at the Agricultural Museum in Milton, and into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

Butler’s talent was admired beyond Canada’s borders, and in 1938, the American Percheron Association commissioned him to sculpt 12 Percherons ideal for breeding (mares and stallions). This led Dawes Brewery to buy two sculptures signed by Butler and to commission him to produce smaller Percherons for use as Black Horse beer promotional items. The Black Horse statuettes were displayed in drinking establishments and at trade fairs. The largest statuette in the Musée’s collection represents a mare in painted plaster.

Bela Zoltvany (1892, Budapest, Hungary – 1956, Montréal, Quebec)

Bela Zoltvany settled in Montréal in 1924. He soon found work as a sculptor with the firm of Carli and Petrucci, specialists in the renovation and decoration of churches, and completed his training at École des beaux-arts de Montréal. His most important project was the decoration of Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire Church, on Villeray Street, in Montréal, which he worked on from 1930 to the early 1950s. Zoltvany created the facade sculptures as well as the pulpit carved with the five Fathers of the Church and a soundboard topped with a trumpeting angle. His secular works include a black Percheron, cast in plaster and painted, for use in promoting Black Horse beer.

Alex J. Ettl (1898, Fort Lee, New Jersey – 1992, Princeton, New Jersey)

Alex Ettl was the son of a Hungarian immigrant who found work as a sculptor in the United States. He quit school at age 15 to apprentice in his father’s studio but soon realized that he could earn much more selling art supplies. He founded Sculpture House Casting, in New York, and made a fortune by developing a catalogue of sculpting tools and supplies that became a reference for sculptors. By the time he was 20, the business was a huge success, and he continued to run it until the age of 91. In the 1950s, he bought a 188-acre farm in Princeton, where he lived with his family and hosted a colony of more than 25 artists in farm buildings converted into small studios. The statuettes that Ettl produced for Black Horse are made of plastic and moulded cardboard.