Alexander Pope, Jr. was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1849 amidst the prosperity of an active New England industrial city. While the Civil War ravished the nation, Pope spent his early years close to home. He started working for his father’s lumber business in the late 1860s, and it is during this time that Pope first began to delve into art.
One of the most important figures during Pope’s initial years as an artist was William Rimmer. Rimmer was a respected Bostonian recognized for his lectures on art anatomy, and Pope attended many classes taught by him. It was at this time, during the early 1870s, that he became familiar with the art school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 1875, Pope started to exhibit his woodcarvings of game birds at the Boston Art Club. He also became established for his paintings of champion dogs and famous horses. As an avid admirer of animals, Pope displayed an outstanding ability to recreate the most minute details of an animal’s physique and spirit. Thereafter, Pope was recognized as one of the premier animal painters of his era.
Pope’s progression as an artist evolved into a variety of genres. Throughout the late 1880s, he painted large trompe l’oeil still lifes, a painting technique which literally means, “that which deceives the eye”. Pope reproduced realistic images of hunting and military scenes in such a way as to fool the viewers’ eyes into perceiving an image as three-dimensional. This was a highly popular means of creating extremely realistic still lifes, and Pope utilized it often.