AVARD TENNYSON FAIRBANKS (1897-1987) ‘GEORGE WASHINGTON’ A Monumental Bronze Bust of America’s First President George Washington, signed distinctly and dated.
Provenance: A gift to The Richmond American University London from the George Washington University, Washington DC USA. In commemoration of the University’s 175th Anniversary and the Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, awarded by Richmond College to GWU President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in 1995. Acquired from Richmond American University London by the present owner. The original bronze plaque is present, bearing the full provenance.
Measuring 118cm x 84cm x 84cm. This bust was featured in the National Art Initiative organised by Art UK in 2021. Photo credit: Juliet Ferguson for Art UK, [email protected] https://www.julietferguson.com
‘George Washington’ (1975) by Avard Fairbanks was a series of outdoor sculptures cast in bronze, depicting America’s first President and greatest founding father. The monumental bronze bust was created to commemorate the 1976 Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. The portrait was modelled in clay, cast in plaster, and then cast in bronze at the Adonis Bronze Foundry. According to Eugene F. Fairbanks, son of Avard Fairbanks, in his book ‘Creating a Portrait in Sculpture’ (2013), three casts in bronze were made. One was given to Salt Lake City Airport, another to Son Dr David Fairbanks, a Professor at George Washington Medical School DC. The third was given to Eugene F. Fairbanks for placement in The Washington State Capitol Building.
Approximately 25 additional casts were erected in prominent locations throughout the USA. Locations include:
The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. United States of America.
The Mount Vernon Visitors Centre, Virginia, United States of America.
The Washington State Capitol, Washington, D.C. United States of America
There is thought to be only one other known example in the United Kingdom at Sulgrave Manor, Near Banbury, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.
Born in Utah in 1897, Avard Tennyson Fairbanks was the youngest child of artist John Fairbanks. He quickly displayed an aptitude for sculpting and was hailed ‘A Young Michelangelo’ by The New York Herald. In 1910 at the age of just fourteen, Avard Fairbanks was offered a scholarship to study at the Art Students League at New York under renowned American sculptor James Earle Fraser.
Fairbank’s early work from this period was displayed at the National Academy of Design. While saving up to study abroad, Fairbank’s attracted large crowds and recognition by sculpting a lion from butter at the Utah State Fair. Fairbanks went to Paris in 1913 to study at Ecole Nationale des Beaux Artes under decorated French sculptor Jean Antione Injalbert. He also studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, the Académie Colarossi, and the École Moderne and became the youngest student to be admitted to the French Grand Salon.
The outbreak of World War II forced Avard Fairbanks and his father to return to New York, where he finished his school education. After returning from Paris, some of Fairbanks’ clay models were displayed in The Panama-Pacific International Exposition and The Palace of Fine Arts. In 1915 he received his first major commission sculpting statues and a very elaborate frieze on the Laie Hawaii Temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As World War I ended, Avard Fairbanks created monuments to the men who had fought and died in the war. The ‘Idaho Doughboy’ was cast and placed in two cities in Idaho and later a memorial to The 91st Division was erected in Fort Lewis, Washington.He also created the bronze-panelled doors for the US National Bank in Portland.
Avard Fairbanks married and travelled to Italy, where he studied in Florence and in 1922 created The Pioneer Mother Memorial . This was cast in bronze and is now in Vancouver Washington. He then moved back to America, where he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan. Teaching and studying, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in 1933 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Anatomy degree in 1936. He taught here until 1955, during which some of his greatest monuments were erected, including ‘Nebula’ and ‘Rain’ and ‘Tragedy at Winter Quarters’.
Avard Fairbanks was notorious for his sculpture of prominent people in American history. Aside from George Washington, he sculpted other Presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy. Avard Fairbanks created almost 100 public monuments as a professional sculptor, a career which spanned over 75 years. Three of his sculptures are in the United States Capitol, two of them in National Statuary Hall. There are seven other statues in Washington, DC. The state capitols in Washington, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming also have his works. Avard Fairbanks continued sculpting until his death in 1987.
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