THE LIFE AND WORK OF AVARD TENNYSON FAIRBANKS,

BFA, MFA, MA, PhD, DFA, hon.

Sculptor Anatomist, and Educator

by Eugene Fairbanks

 



 

During World War II as university enrollment declined, and wishing to be of service to the nation, Avard Fairbanks accepted a position at the Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant in the personnel department. His duties were instructing many new employees plant operational information. He designed carefully illustrated, easy to understand, flow charts to expedite distribution of parts. When visiting dignitaries arrived, he took them on plant tours explaining manufacturing processes. His comprehension of needs and details added to his expertise in art.

Following the war, the industries began to retool for civilian needs. The American Society of Automotive Engineers, to meet urgent needs sought his services in collaboration with the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. This was a new venture for Art, Industry and Education, but Michigan is noted for innovation in these fields. The teaching of Automotive Body Design and Styling was decided upon and courses were established with the Extension Division of the University of Michigan in the Rackham Educational Building in Detroit, Michigan.

When the Automotive Golden Jubilee was celebrated in Detroit under the direction of General Knudsen and George Romney, Dr. Fairbanks was called on to create the Award that was titled The Genius of Man His Mind and His Work. Replicas were given to fourteen of the living pioneers of the Automotive Industry in honor of their great services.

The University of Utah was expanding in the post World War II period. Dr. Fairbanks was appointed Dean and asked to organize a college of Fine Arts at this institution. He moved younger members of the family to Salt Lake City in 1947. The four older sons were pursuing their professions or were in the military service. An ambitious program was begun with a new studio on the ground level. Here other examples of great statuary were created. A rush order for a Pony Express Statue was requested for the annual parade in three weeks. This creation included a rider, a station master and two horses. It was modeled directly in slow setting plaster, and finishing touches were being applied as the float was towed down to its place in the procession. It won a first place award, and it was entered in other parades in the Rocky Mountain region. Altogether it won twenty one first place awards. Many years later, the sons and grandsons collaborated on a heroic size replica. It was cast in bronze and erected at This Is The Place State Park, on the old Pony Express Trail. Many other significant heroic statues were created at the studio. Dr. Marcus Whitman, pioneer physician to the Pacific Northwest is honored by a statue in Statuary Hall, Washington, DC. Copies are placed at the State Capitol in Olympia Washington and at Whitman College in Walla Walla, a few miles from the site of the Whitman Mission. Another memorial in Statuary Hall honors Esther Morris of Wyoming, active in securing equal rights for women in that state. A copy is on the capitol grounds at Cheyenne, Wyoming. North Dakota is represented by Fairbanks' heroic bronze statue of Honorable John Burke. He was Treasurer of the United States under Woodrow Wilson; three times Governor of his state and Supreme Court Justice in North Dakota for many years. A copy is at the North Dakota capitol.

A monument was erected to Daniel C. Jackling who developed the Utah Copper Company, predecessor of Kennecott Copper, the greatest mining project ever undertaken by man. It is in the Bingham Canyon in Utah. The statue was placed in the Utah State Capitol by the Kennecott Copper Company under the sponsorship of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers. Another statue was erected at Colorado Springs, Colorado at Broadmoor honoring Spencer Penrose, an associate of Daniel Jackling.

Other monuments of Abraham Lincoln were commissioned. A heroic bronze statue was erected in the restored village of New Salem, Illinois. This portrays the young, vigorous Abraham Lincoln in transition, At The Crossroads of Decision, resting his ax and picking up the law book. During Lincoln's years at New Salem his living was earned by labor, but his developing interest was in public speaking. His future lay in Law and politics. This monument was a gift of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers. Another monument to Lincoln was erected at Lincoln Square in Chicago North Side, entitled The Great Chicago Lincoln. The caption from a speech is: "A Free Society Is Not and Shall Not Be A Failure." In nearby Berwyn, Illinois a monument in heroic bronze was placed entitled Lincoln The Friendly Neighbor. This is a group portraying him as a friend to children of the neighborhood. Bas Relief panels in heroic proportions commemorate the Lincoln Douglas debates, featuring Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. They were erected at Knox College in Galesburg. Illinois on the only remaining building used for the historic debates. Heroic marble portrait busts of Abraham Lincoln representing four ages, as a Youth, the Railsplitter, the Lawyer, and the President were placed in the Ford Theater Museum in Washington, DC. The portrait of Lincoln the Lawyer, was soon placed at the Temple of Justice, The Supreme Court Building.

The commander of the Phalanx of Knights of Thermopylae, Mr. Harris J. Booras of Boston, Massachusetts collaborated with officials of the city of Sparta, Greece to create and place a memorial of heroic proportions to Lycurgus, the ancient law giver of that city. Nine centuries before Christ, this monarch established constitutional government and created a senatorial system which granted a voice to the people, an intermediary between the king an his subjects. This was the first constitutional government in recorded history. The monument created by Dr. Fairbanks was erected in October 1955, near the site of the ancient forum. It is at the present Temple of Justice, the choicest location in Sparta, Greece.

Another monument was The Guidance of Youth, erected in Bush Park, Salem, Oregon. One outstanding portrait study was modeled of the oldest survivor of the Grand Army of The Republic, Albert Woolson, 107 years old. This portrait bust adorns the corridor of the City Hall of Duluth, Minnesota. Later Avard Fairbanks was commissioned to create a monument to this man. It was placed on the Gettysburg battlefield at Zieglers Grove. A copy was erected in Duluth.

A bas relief bronze panel honoring Anthony W. Ivans, a board of Trustees member and a promoter of Boy scout and youth activities, was placed in the library at Utah State University in Logan. Louis F. Moench, founder of Weber State University, Ogden, Utah was memorialized by a heroic bronze statue at that campus. Ute Brave, a heroic bronze statue on the University of Utah campus portrays a crouching Indian preparing to put an arrow to his bow.

 

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