One of the more interesting and useful areas of Stevens study is comparing decoys made by Harvey to those made by George. George wasn’t nearly the perfectionist and conformists as was his older brother Harvey. Harvey felt his rigid disciplines led him to the perfect decoy – The Finest in the World. George, however, once free from Harvey’s control, became imaginative and experimental. George also carved a greater variety of species than Harvey, although less in total decoy production. George also experimented with new forms – coming up with his unique “nautical” decoys. Below is a pictorial example of George’s creativity in form. These variations can be seen in several species, but none are as varied and well-illustrated as with his canvasbacks and mallards.
Let’s examine the mallard.
First, in this beautiful example, George follows his brother’s footsteps seeking control and perfection. George's paint is easy to see but his individual carving style has yet to emerge.
After Harvey’s illness and death, we see George Stevens develop his unique form. Although George never leaves Harvey's construction elements of pumpkin seed with paddletail, head attachment, recessed staple hole and recessed lead ballast, his decoys are formed with thicker back ends and the tail comes off steeper from the body just below mid-horizontal line. His model has a sturdier neck than did Harvey's decoys. His bill carving is also slightly broader at the base and less bell shaped than Harvey's. Most of George's decoys are made in this form, although only one mallard in original paint has been found.
Then George begins to experiment with different forms. He stretches his imagination with an elongated body and tail, thinner body, more narrow neck and more delicate bill.
In a recently found mallard, it appears (based on photos) that George made at least one mallard in his nautical form – although not very successfully compared to his huge success with canvasbacks in the nautical form (those having flat backs and rowboat-like bottoms).
Mallards made by the Stevens Brothers are very difficult to find in original paint. Of the 547 decoys in the database (as of December 2020), there are 23 mallard drakes made by Harvey in good original paint and only 6 made by George (not including the nautical body with much wear and repainted head). Of George’s mallards; 3 are modeled after Harvey’s classic paddletail, 2 are the long bodied-thin necked versions, and only one “classic” George mallard in very good paint form the Mott Collection (coming to sale at Copley Winter Sale 2021). To learn more about the differences between George and Harvey decoys, see The Essential Guide To Stevens Decoys.
Only known matched pair of George W. Stevens mallards (Private Collection)