Constantin Meunier and Le Marteleur

Among the public outdoor sculptures on campus that were recently cleaned, conserved, and rewaxed was the figure you see here, shining in the summer sunlight outside the Engineering building: Le Marteleur (The Hammerman or Hammersmith). This sculpture is by the Belgian artist Constantin Meunier (1831-1905), who became famous in his day for figures that idealized the image of the worker or laborer. The art critic Christian Brinton, soon after the artist’s death, described Meunier’s sculptures as having a “latent idealism [that] animates their every movement. They rejoice in labour well performed. . . . His art is in a sense the deification of work. . . . These men are not building for to-day alone. With each stroke they are strengthening the solidarity of the human race” (pp. 57-59).

The photograph you see here by M. Duyk shows Meunier in his studio in Brussels surrounded by some of his models and plaster casts (Brinton p. 18). Meunier’s interest in immortalizing the laborer on a grand scale may have been influenced in part by the wave of social-democratic politics in Europe from the 1870s on, as well as renewed interest in the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, specifically The Communist Manifesto. Certainly Meunier wasn’t the only sculptor to elevate the image of the worker at this time; comparable examples can be seen in Hamo Thornycroft’s The Mower (1888-90), and in the figure depicting Labor in Jules Dalou’s monumental Triumph of the Republic (1889-99). Although Meunier’s figure wears the clothing and holds the accessories of an industrial metalworker, he stands in classical contrapposto. The idealization of the worker’s body shows this figure is a modernist reinterpretation of the Neoclassical gods and heroes in marble that were popular earlier in the nineteenth century.

Le Marteleur was first modeled around 1884. A plaster cast was exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1886, for which Meunier won an honorable mention. Columbia’s repetition of the sculpture was posthumously cast in bronze by the Fonderie Verbeyst in Brussels. A gift from the Class of 1889 School of Mines, the statue was installed in 1914 outside what was then the new building for the School of Mines, as seen in this archival photograph from University Archives. That building today is Lewisohn Hall. The School of Mines evolved over time (eventually becoming the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science), and with the construction of the new building in the northeast corner of the Morningside campus, Le Marteleur eventually was moved along with it and has remained a beacon of the school’s illustrious history for more than a century.

Work Cited:
Christian Brinton, Constantin Meunier (Buffalo, NY: Albright Art Gallery; New York: Redfield Brothers, 1913),

Conservation Video Summer 2018

Columbia’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs has released this new video documenting some of the recent conservation work that took place on campus this summer. Stay tuned for more photos and information about some of the sculptures recently conserved on campus.

Conservation Summer 2018

Art Properties, Avery Library, and Columbia Facilities is pleased to be working with Conservation Solutions/EverGreene Architectural Arts Inc. for the cleaning and conservation of a few public outdoor sculptures on the Morningside campus in July 2018. The most important work on campus that will be affected by this short-term project will be Alma Mater. Other sculptures that will have conservation work done this month will be Le Marteleur outside the Engineering school; the Battle of Harlem Heights relief sculpture on Broadway near the Earl Hall gate; the two-part Rives Memorial reliefs on College Walk; and the Mitchell Memorial on the exterior wall of Hamilton Hall. Many of the employees of EverGreene are alumni of GSAPP’s Historic Preservation program and we are delighted to have them back on campus working on these sculptures.

Project from Spring 2017: Greg Wyatt, Scholars’ Lion

The following post was written by Juan Alvarez, a student in the “Public Outdoor Sculpture at Columbia and Barnard” undergraduate seminar in Spring 2017. This excerpt from his research paper discusses Columbia’s famous lion mascot and the sculpture of the lion near the entrance to the Dodge Fitness Center, installed on campus in 2004.

Greg Wyatt, Scholars’ Lion

Written by Juan D. Alvarez; edited by Roberto C. Ferrari

Columbia’s sculpture of the Scholars’ Lion by Greg Wyatt stands on a large granite pedestal and faces East. It is a larger-than-life walking lion made in bronze. With his eyes wide open, the lion is patrolling his territory. The so-called “King of the Jungle” walks on massive, even oversized, paws that demonstrate its potential for violence while maintaining a focused and calm demeanor. His mouth is open, exposing razor-sharp canines to warn those who would threaten him. Yet, there is a grace to the figure, and a feeling of awe may overcome the viewer after just a few moments of contemplating this sculpture of Columbia’s mascot.

From the cave paintings in Chauvet, France to the lion hunt reliefs of Assyrian king Ashurnasipal II, man has been obsessed with the image of this animal to express power, strength, virility, and divine right. The decision to make the lion the mascot for Columbia may seem obvious, and if asked the majority of students might assume it was adopted at the time of the school’s founding in 1754. The truth is that Columbia had no mascot until April 1910, when the Columbia Alumni Association voted and finally passed a motion making the lion the official mascot.[1] At the same event, a banner in blue and white with a rampant lion was presented to Pres. Nicholas Murray Butler by George Brokaw Compton (CC’09 and Law ’13). But the rampant lion was not popular with all students and the new mascot had its challengers. Runner up for the prestigious position was a feral goat that roamed the campus grounds and was named “Matilda the Harlem Goat.” In a letter to the editor of Columbia Alumni News, an anonymous writer argued for the goat, saying that it called Morningside its home just like the University.[2] Others were not so much opposed to the lion but rather the connection of the rampant lion to the British royal family. They wanted instead a symbol that was more in line with America, like the eagle.[3]

By 1924, however, the lion was firmly in place as the mascot for the school when the Class of 1899 took on the task of making the lion’s presence official for their 25th reunion (and Columbia’s 170th anniversary) by presenting a bronze lion to the University to be placed on a rocky outcropping at Baker Field, overlooking the football practice field. American animalier sculptor Frederick Roth was commissioned to sculpt the lion and McKim, Meade & White the pedestal.[4]  Roth was selected because of his artistic credentials, including being the president of the National Sculpture Society and the sculptor of the Princeton Tiger.[5] On June 4, 1924 the Columbia Lion was presented with great fanfare by Pres. Butler, standing on its rocky outcropping.[6] It was later moved to ground-level at Baker Field where it stands today.

Eighty years later, the sculptor Greg Wyatt brought the Scholars’ Lion to Columbia. Wyatt attended Columbia College like his father, Stanley Wyatt (CC’43 and GSAS’47), and graduated with a major in Art History in 1971.[7] The elder Wyatt was a member of the faculty teaching fine arts.[8] The younger Wyatt currently is sculptor-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Devine, where his most famous public outdoor sculpture, Peace Fountain, can be seen. The sculptor was commissioned by the Class of 1996 to create a bronze lion for the Morningside campus, with additional funds provided by the Classes of ’71 and ’95.[9] One member of the committee wrote:

For far too long, Columbia students have had to sustain the lion’s spirit in their hearts without the inspiration of a tangible image on campus. Now that roaring gap is being redressed. Greg’s work will no doubt provide a new, mane focus for campus life. We may longer be King’s College, but we can still celebrate the “King of the Jungle.”[10]

Wyatt produced multiple sketches and at least two models, the first versions of which were described as being too anthropomorphic and lacking in ferocity. Wyatt responded with more drawings and worked the models tirelessly, finally settling on the depiction seen today, with the lion walking and his mouth open, exposing his teeth.[11] The original site for the sculpture was supposed to be outside John Jay Hall, but University Administration decided instead that the sculpture should mark the entrance to the Dodge Fitness Center because of the mascot’s ties to athletics. On April 7, 2004, Scholars’ Lion was unveiled in a public ceremony that coincided with Columbia’s 250th anniversary.[12]


[1]Leo Columbiae,” Columbia Alumni News, April 20, 1910, Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, Columbia University, p. 4.

[2] Ibid., p. 8.

[3] “Comment,” Columbia Alumni News, April 13, 1910, p.1.

[4] George S. Hellman to William Mitchell Kendall, Esq., June 7, 1923, Curatorial File: C00.706, Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

[5] Ernest A. Cardozo, “The Origins of Leo Columbiae,” in Columbian Yearbook 1929, Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, Columbia University, pp. 34-37; John William Robson, A Guide to Columbia University (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937), p. 196.

[6] “A Glorious Twenty-Fifth Anniversary,” Columbia Alumni News, June 1924, p. 509.

[7] Shira Boss, “The Scholarly Artist,Columbia College Today (Summer 2016), available online:

[8] Ibid.

[9]Comments attached to Angela Giral to Jonathan Cole, July 25, 1997, Curatorial File: 2004.1, Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

[10] Joshua Rubenstein to Greg Wyatt, April 28, 1998, ibid.

[11] Johnathan O. Mirian, “A Lion’s Job,” in Columbia Daily Spectator, September 21, 2001, available online:——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-greg+wyatt—–#.

[12] Sally Weiner to Brian Bodine, June 4, 1998, Curatorial File: 2004.1; Alex Sachare, “Scholars’ Lion Unveiling Highlights Deans Day,” Columbia College Today (May 2004), available online:

Project from Spring 2017: Auguste Rodin, The Thinker

The following post was written by Tanya Moe, a student in the “Public Outdoor Sculpture at Columbia and Barnard” undergraduate seminar in Spring 2017. This excerpt from her research paper discusses what is arguably Columbia’s most easily identifiable public sculpture on campus and how it came to be installed outside Philosophy Hall in 1931.


Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (Le Penseur)

Written by Tanya Moe; edited by Roberto C. Ferrari


Columbia University’s relationship with its most famous sculpture The Thinker (Le Penseur), by the artist Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), began in the late 1920s under the administration of Nicholas Murray Butler, who was President of Columbia for 44 years. Under Butler’s leadership the campus was expanded and enrollment increased. He elevated the school’s reputation to make it one of the leading higher-educational institutions in the world.[1] Alongside Butler’s many feats of bolstering of the university’s educational programs was the commissioning of a cast of Rodin’s Thinker.

The acquisition of the statue took about two years. The earliest letters in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library document that the process began in 1929. Butler’s decision to acquire the statue was part of a movement “to beautify and to adorn the grounds at Morningside and to give them a more attractive and impressive appearance than they now have.”[2] During discussions, two locations were suggested for The Thinker: in front of Kent Hall; or, outside Philosophy Hall. In a letter to Henry Lee Norris, the Director of Works at Columbia, Butler expressed his preference for the latter location of the two: “The effectiveness of the statue in front of the School of Mines is so fine that I should not like to have anything less good for Philosophy Hall.”[3]

The statue outside the School of Mines that Butler referred to was The Hammersmith (Le Marteleur), designed in 1884 by the Belgian artist Constantin Meunier.  Columbia’s cast was commissioned by the School of Mines (now Engineering) Class of 1889 and installed on campus in 1914 outside their building, now known as Lewisohn Hall. Meunier’s works elevate the image of the industrial worker into an icon of modernity, as demonstrated in the strong pose of Le Marteleur, making it an appropriate representation of the School of Mines and its programs in mining and engineering. The sculpture was later moved outside the new Engineering building on the northeast corner of campus.

Following the symbolic relationship between buildings and statues, it is understandable why Butler preferred the contemplative Thinker to stand outside Philosophy Hall. In a meeting of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds in 1930, Butler again put forward an argument for the statue to be placed in front of Philosophy Hall. In another letter to Norris, he wrote:

This preference rests on two considerations: first, that the statue Le Penseur is most appropriately placed in front of a building which bears the name “Philosophy,” and, second, that in that place it will balance the impressive statue “Le Marteleur” on the other side of the quadrangle in front of the School of Mines.[4]

In another letter, Butler bolstered his argument by stating further, “We should then have two of the masterpieces of the two greatest modern sculptors on our Quadrangle.”[5] Unfortunately, the lawn in front of Philosophy was already occupied by the Venetian well-head, which had been presented as a memorial of the Class of 1887. This issue was addressed with a resolution by Butler as such:

If we should put the well-head which is now in front of Philosophy at the middle point of this quadrangle, might it not serve as a motif for some architectural and landscaping development, not too costly, of a character that would make the quadrangle itself very attractive and serve as a model of what we should like to do throughout the grounds?[6]

This quadrangle was the space bounded by the Chapel on the south, Fayerweather on the east, Schermerhorn on the north, and Avery on the west. Norris (Director of Works) and William M. Kendall (an architect at the firm McKim, Mead & White) both agreed with Butler’s suggestion and the well-head was moved.

In June 1930, Butler ordered the replica of Rodin’s statue after having visited the Musée Rodin in Paris. He suggested the pedestal be shorter than the one at the museum, as it was “in [his] judgment, too high.”[7] Butler expected the statue to arrive before August 1st, but he was soon informed that “the authorities of the Rodin Museum wish Columbia University to have an entirely new copy of the statue.”[8] Thus, a new statue was cast by Alexis Rudier, from the Rudier Foundry, where many of Rodin’s bronzes were cast. This new statue delayed plans for installation by around six months, but The Thinker was eventually installed in early 1931 in front of Philosophy Hall to balance with The Hammersmith outside the School of Mines.


[1] “Nicholas Murray Butler,” Columbia University,

[2] Nicholas Murray Butler, Letter to Edward H. Kendall, Feb. 26, 1930, Nicholas Murray Butler Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University. (The letters  below come from the same archive.)

[3] Nicholas Murray Butler, Letter to Henry Lee Norris, Aug. 1, 1929.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Nicholas Murray Butler, Letter to William M. Kendall, Jun. 2, 1930.

[6] Nicholas Murray Butler, Letter to Edward H. Kendall, Feb. 26, 1930.

[7] Nicholas Murray Butler, Letter to William M. Kendall, Jun. 2, 1930.

[8] Nicholas Murray Butler, Letter to Henry Lee Norris, Jul. 1, 1930.


Projects from Spring 2017: Kees Verkade, Tightrope Walker

During the Spring 2017 semester, Prof. Robert Harrist and Curator Roberto C. Ferrari co-taught an undergraduate seminar entitled “Public Outdoor Sculpture at Columbia and Barnard.” The idea for the course was inspired by the recent acquisition of Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure, and the subsequent controversy which followed its proposed installation. Reinforcing the educational mission of the University’s art collection, this seminar was a prime opportunity to teach from Columbia’s permanent art collection utilizing sculpture that students, faculty, and staff see everyday on campus but know little about it.

Each of the students took on a final research project associated with one of the sculptures. Over the next few months, excerpts from some of their project reports will be made available on this blog, enabling everyone to learn more about the history of these works of art and their association with Columbia’s history.

We begin with Barnard College student Isabel Dicker, who became fascinated by the sculpture on Revson Plaza known as the Tightrope Walker by the Dutch modernist sculptor Kees Verkade. This sculpture was unveiled in 1979 as a dedicated memorial to Gen. William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School. The depiction of two tightrope walkers on one another’s shoulders was intended to symbolize the dangers and risks Donovan took protecting America in the battlefields, as well as his later career in the precursor of the CIA and as a lawyer.

Dicker created an original website/blog entitled “Kees Verkade, the Tightrope Walker, and Wild Bill,” and you can read all of her individual posts highlighting aspects of the sculpture, the artist, “Wild Bill” himself, and so on: (Start at the oldest post and work your way to the newest post to follow her chronology of research.)

During the summer the marble base of the sculpture was destroyed. Fortunately, the sculpture itself is intact and did not suffer any damage. The marble sheathing around the sculpture’s base will be repaired or replaced in the months to come.

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1969-70

It’s been nine months since Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure, 1969-70, was installed on the Morningside campus on the lawn outside Havemeyer and Mathematics Halls. The response has been so positive since the installation last December. The statue’s new home in a green space likely would have pleased Moore, who preferred that his sculpture was viewed surrounded by nature. To read more about the sculpture and to see a video of the dedication ceremony thanking David and Laura Finn for their generous gift, go to

New Public Outdoor Sculpture by Henry Moore…Coming Soon!

image-correctedcroppedColumbia University is honored to be the recipient of a significant donation of a public outdoor sculpture by Henry Moore (1898-1986), one of the most important British sculptors of the twentieth century. Preparation for the installation of Reclining Figure, which measures approximately 9 x 11 x 7 feet and is cast in bronze, will begin this week at the Morningside Campus on the central lawn near the entrance to Butler Library. The donation of this sculpture was accepted by the Committee on Art Properties and University administration over twenty years ago, with the permanent location approved more recently. The photograph seen above was taken in 2014 and shows the sculpture in its pre-conservation state. The donors, David and Laura Finn, were long-time friends of the sculptor. Mr. Finn is a fine-art photographer who has published numerous books on photographing sculpture, and is a co-founder of Ruder Finn Inc., the public relations agency. The Finns’ children are alumni of Columbia.

Early in his career, Henry Moore embraced abstraction through sculptural forms, but his works consistently call to mind figurative subjects. Columbia’s newest public outdoor sculpture, Reclining Figure, is meant to suggest the form of a woman with her legs outstretched before her, propping herself up with her forearm. This work was designed by Moore from 1969 to 1970 and subsequently cast in bronze by Hermann Noack in Berlin. Columbia’s cast is number 5 of 6, with repetitions of this important work on display in cities such as Hakone, Japan; Humlebaek, Denmark; and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Once installed onOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA campus, this sculpture will make Columbia only the second university in the United States, after M.I.T., to have on permanent display two public outdoor sculptures by Moore. Columbia’s other Moore sculpture, Three-Way Piece, No. 1: Points, located on Revson Plaza, was donated in 1967 by Miriam and Ira D. Wallach.


UPDATE (November 17, 2016): Following many months of discussion, University Administration, with the support of the donors, decided to change the location of this sculpture to the lawn just south of Havemeyer and east of Mathematics, where it will better harmonize with the natural environment, situated between two trees. The concrete base is now in place, and we are looking forward to installing and showcasing this remarkable sculpture by Moore in the coming weeks.

Meadmore’s Curl…Conservation Complete

curl_20151219Anyone walking past Uris Hall these days will now notice that Clement Meadmore’s sculpture The Curl is looking better than ever, or at least better than it has for the past 15+ years. Seeing it in its newly-conserved state, the viewer can appreciate fully Meadmore’s intent of using the painted surface of the sculpture to create a sleek, sinuous form that belies the weight and hard materiality of its Cor-Ten structure. Although rust is a natural part of the appeal of Cor-Ten steel, environmental conditions led to the erosion of the steel in some parts and an adverse reaction with the paint. After nearly three months of conservation work spearheaded by Conservation Solutions, Inc.–to whom we owe our thanks for all their hard work–we are now pleased to showcase Meadmore’s masterpiece in its newly-conserved state. Upon seeing the sculpture, Ellen Goldberg, Trustee of the Meadmore Foundation, recently responded with exuberance that “Clem” would be thrilled with the results.

In September, The Curl was dismantled and removed from the campus, then traveled to Virginia, where in a warehouse layers of old paint were removed and the entire sculpture pressure-cleaned to remove all the rust. Areas of degradation and fissures in the surface were repaired with new steel. The entire sculpture was then sprayed with a zinc coating to strengthen its resistance to natural degradation, then sanded to create an even surface, but respecting the original surface conditions from when the sculpture was first made. Once the sculpture returned to campus, it was housed in a tent so the final coats of paint could be rolled on, as they would have been applied in Meadmore’s day. Only when the sculpture was fully dry and cured was the tent removed to reveal the sculpture in its revitalized form. To see more photos of the return of the sculpture to campus, go to the Avery Library blog,

A brief rededication ceremony was held on December 16, 2015, to celebrate the beauty of this sculpture and its importance to Columbia, and to acknowledge all of Columbia’s partners for their critical roles in bringing this project to fruition: Office of the Provost, Columbia Business School, Columbia University Facilities, Columbia University Libraries, the Meadmore Task Force and the Committee on Art Properties.

To see the latest video produced by Columbia’s Office of Communications about The Curl, including historical footage and highlights from the recent rededication ceremony, go to

As with all the public outdoor sculpture, we kindly remind everyone to please respect these sculptures by not climbing on them or abusing or vandalizing them in any way. By doing this, you are helping to ensure the long-term preservation of these important art works for generations to come. Thank you.

Image Credit: Clement Meadmore, The Curl, 1968, Cor-Ten steel with paint, Gift of Percy Uris (1968.3.1), Photo: Brett Essler, Columbia Business School.

Meadmore’s Curl…Dismantling a Steel Sculpture

Here are a few recent photos, taken by Avery Library’s Registrar & Digital Content Librarian, showing the dismantling of Clement Meadmore’s Curl as it makes its way off-site to be conserved and returned later in the fall semester. To see even more great images, visit the Avery Library blog for images from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of the dismantling process. If you have your own images that you want to share with us, email them to

Day 1_DSC_0292_800Day 2_DSC_0316_800 Day 2_DSC_0344_800Day3_DSC_0406_800 Day3_DSC_0455_800