Here are a few new photos of the some of the public outdoor sculptures on the Morningside campus, taken by Art Properties student assistant Michael J. Munro (GSAPP, Historic Preservation). If you want to send us your photos and possibly see them on the blog, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kees Verdake, “Tight Rope Walker,” 1973-79, Revson Plaza
David Bakalar, “Life Force,” 1988-92, Revson Plaza
Auguste Rodin, “The Thinker,” 1880-82, cast 1930, outside Philosophy Hall
William Ordway Partridge, “John Howard Van Amringe,” 1920, Van Amringe Plaza
Clement Meadmore’s abstract sculpture The Curl was commissioned from the artist by Percy Uris, and in 1968 the work was installed at Columbia outside the newly-constructed Uris Hall. The Office of Marketing and Communications at the Business School recently produced this fascinating video about the history of the sculpture and its arrival on campus. Credit goes to Brett Essler, Senior Digital Content Manager, and his team for spearheading this video project. As noted in a previous post, a task force is hard at work exploring conservation options for this important sculpture.
If you are strolling around the Morningside campus this week and next week, you will notice people working in the hot sun treating three bronze sculptures: William Ordway Partridge’s two statues of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, and Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. Conservation Solutions has been contracted to clean, treat, patinate, and rewax these statues and their pedestals, to freshen them up and stabilize the condition of each sculpture.
Since the statue of Jefferson outside the School of Journalism is celebrating his 100th birthday this year, this seemed like a great opportunity to give him a “facelift.” Similarly, Jefferson’s partner Hamilton, installed in 1908 outside Hamilton Hall, needed cleaning and treatment. Unfortunately, the Rodin sculpture recently had been vandalized, someone having brushed and sprayed gold paint onto parts of the statue, so it too needed treatment to remove the paint and restore the statue’s protective wax finish.
The two pictures you see here show the conservators using blow torches for the application of hot wax. As noted on this blog, the care and protection of public outdoor sculpture is costly, but critical to the long life of these beautiful works of art. Stay tuned for more news about conservation and the public outdoor sculpture at Columbia, and say thank you to the staff from Conservation Solutions!
Thanks to the ongoing release of digital images from University Archives, we are able to visually relive great moments from Columbia’s past. For instance, the image you see here shows the unveiling of the sculpture Alma Mater, which was designed by Daniel Chester French and cast in bronze by John Williams. From the time of its installation, this sculpture has been a symbol of academic pride for Columbia University.
The Trustees approved French’s design for the statue in Spring 1901, and it was scheduled to be unveiled at Commencement in June 1903. However, a strike at the Williams foundry delayed completion of the statue. It was therefore officially unveiled in the late afternoon hours on September 23, 1903, following the opening exercises for the 150th academic year, which took place that same day at 3:00 PM. At the unveiling, an introductory prayer was offered by Henry Codman Potter, University Trustee and Bishop of New York. The statue was then formally presented to President Nicholas Murray Butler by John Howard Van Amringe, Dean of Columbia College, on behalf of the donors.
Alma Mater was a gift in honor of Robert Goelet of the Class of 1860 from his wife and his son, Robert Walton Goelet. What may not be immediately obvious in the image seen here is that the bronze sculpture was initially gilded and thus glowed like a gold beacon in the sunlight. As taste in sculpture changed, French returned at a later date and removed the gilding, giving the statue the brown lustre it has to this day.
For more information about the unveiling of Alma Mater, see the front page of the Columbia Daily Spectator for September 23, 1903, available online through the Columbia Spectator Archive project.
Among all the public outdoor sculptures on campus, the one probably most familiar to people is The Thinker (Le Penseur) by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Situated on the lawn outside Philosophy Hall, The Thinker is six feet tall without his base, which adds nearly another six feet to its overall height.
Rodin began his career in the mid-1870s, following the end of the Franco-Prussian War, a period in which numerous monumental sculptures began to appear throughout Paris as a form of patriotism to the newly-established Third Republic government. His Parisian artist contemporaries included the Impressionist painters Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. Although Rodin’s sculptures are figurative in nature and arguably an adaptation of classical forms, art historians see them as the beginning of a modernist sensibility toward abstraction in sculpture because of their stark hyper-realism and fragmentation of the body. The Thinker was originally designed in 1880-82 as the central figure at the top of his monumental set of doors, The Gates of Hell. The seated male nude was meant to represent Dante contemplating his journey into Hell as recounted in his epic poem The Inferno. The commission for the doors never came to fruition, and so Rodin began marketing individual sculptures from the portal as art objects unto themselves. He cast the first life-sized versions of The Thinker in 1903.
After Rodin’s death, his studio continued to produce bronze casts in his name using the sculptor’s original models. Columbia’s replica of The Thinker was commissioned in 1930 by then-President Nicholas Murray Butler from the Musée Rodin, and it was cast in bronze by Alexis Rudier, Rodin’s preferred foundry. The sculpture as it sits on the lawn outside Philosophy Hall has come to symbolize wisdom and knowledge, the importance of the thought process needed to excel in one’s academic studies.
The image you see here was published a few months ago on the BWOG, Columbia’s student-run campus news site. Although the caption suggests that their editorial group appreciated the skateboarder’s midnight riding skills (“color us impressed”), in fact this kind of activity on a public outdoor sculpture is one of the worst things that can happen to the work of art itself. Sculptures in stone and metal naturally suffer from the elements of nature, from acid rain to guano, but they also suffer a great deal from the acts of humans. This ranges from the unconscious touching of sculptures, leaving oil residue that erodes the surface, or outright vandalism and abuse of the works of art themselves. Skateboarding on Clement Meadmore’s Curl clearly is an example of this latter abuse. This sculpture has been interpreted as many things, but the one thing that can be confirmed is that it is NOT a skateboard ramp!
This abstract sculpture was the first commission for a public outdoor monumental sculpture that Clement Meadmore (1929-2005) received. Born in Australia, where he received his artistic training, Meadmore emigrated to the United States where he was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and the improvisational sounds of jazz music. He began experimenting with Cor-Ten steel, and developed his signature fluid geometric sculptures that belie the industrial materiality of the metal with which they are made. Meadmore received this commission from businessman and philanthropist Percy Uris in 1967. The sculpture was installed at the Morningside Campus a year later as a gift from Uris to decorate the lawn of the new Business School building, which he had endowed. This sculpture made Meadmore’s international reputation, and he went on to receive numerous other commissions for public outdoor sculptures from universities, businesses, and cities around the world.
The natural degradation of the paint on the Cor-Ten steel has, unfortunately, made the Curl look less desirable today as it once did. However, a Task Force has been formed to address the concerns of this sculpture and to make recommendations for ways in which Meadmore’s first major work of art can be properly preserved and restored to its original glory. Stay tuned for more information about this.
And, as a reminder, please don’t ride skateboards on the sculpture!
University Archives, in RBML, recently released this archival photograph showing the back of Thomas Jefferson by William Ordway Partridge (1861-1930). This statue of the third President of the United States, shown as a young man, was modeled in plaster by Partridge in 1901 and cast in bronze in 1914 by Roman Bronze Works, Inc., a New York-based foundry. The sculpture was a gift from the estate of Joseph Pulitzer and supplemented by public subscription. It was installed outside the Graduate School of Journalism and unveiled on June 4, 1914, making it a companion work to Partridge’s statue of Alexander Hamilton, located outside Hamilton Hall. Jefferson stands on a granite pedestal and measures 14 feet in height. The original plaster model, at 20 5/8 inches in height, is in the permanent collection of The New-York Historical Society.
University Archives, in the Columbia University Libraries Rare Book and Manuscript Library, recently released this archival photograph of George Grey Barnard's sculpture The Great God Pan (C00.825). As noted in a previous post, Barnard's sculpture is currently located outside Lewisohn Hall, but it was originally installed as a working fountain in a neo-Pompeiian grotto called the Grove, located in the northeast corner of the campus.
In 1916, Ralph Perry, editor of The Columbian, wrote a poem dedicated to the spirit of Pan and this sculpture, and published it in the university publication (p. 353). The title "Pan Gyrics" (instead of "lyrics") suggests the poem relates to the idea of gyration, moving rapidly in a circular pattern. It may have been intended as a team rally song and dance, especially since it appeared in the publication following an essay on football. Considering the association of the god Pan with nature and sexuality, however, the title arguably may also be a double entendre.
To the Great God Pan
We haven't got a bull dog nor an ideal for a totem.
But yet we have a watchword and an emblem of our clan:
We don't say much about it, for it passes our expression
For the symbol of our spirit is the Great God Pan.
Yes, the big and mystic statue that has crept into our blood
With the love we bear our college–and who knows when that began?
But we feel it, and sense it with a fervor more than knowledge
When we swear, so very softly, "By the Great God Pan!"
All the bigness that is in us, all the glory that runs through us.
That is called out by "Columbia!" as we travel in her van–
And the spirit which it voices is of youth and aspiration:
Aye, may we live forever by the Great God Pan!
UPDATE: On February 1, 2016, Google Maps Engine discontinued service, and unfortunately all maps created with this site were deleted. Art Properties will revisit options for creating and disseminating a map of the campus sculpture in the near future. — Roberto C. Ferrari, Curator of Art Properties
If you are planning a visit to the Morningside Campus or Barnard College, and you would like to know where the public sculpture is located, here is a map to help you. Each sculpture is identified with its own marker on the map that will give you basic information about the work of art. You can also bookmark the map for future reference by going to https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/0/edit?mid=zzO_yMmGSiro.kPBAqqcLVfUA. If you take any photographs and would like to have them appear on this blog, please email them to us at email@example.com.
In anticipation of New York’s first snow storm of 2014, here are a few “winter white” pictures of the public sculpture at the Morningside campus.
Daniel Chester French, Alma Mater; Constantin Meunier, Le Marteleur; Jacques Lipschitz, Bellerophon Taming Pegasus, and David Bakalar, Life Force. Photographs by Eileen Barroso, Office of Publications, Columbia University.