THE LIFE AND WORK OF AVARD TENNYSON FAIRBANKS,

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

Sculptor Anatomist, and Educator

by Eugene Fairbanks

 



 

These many fine monuments have not interfered with modeling portraits of eminent characters from various parts of the world. Among these may be noted: Dr. Rufus B. von Kleinsmid, Chancellor of the University of Southern California; Marshall Dana, Chief Editor of the Oregon Journal, Regional planner, leader in National Reclamation Service, and prominent in Public Relations in which capacity he was Assistant to the President of the United States National Bank in Portland, Oregon; Howard R. Driggs, former head of the Department of American Literature, New York University, and later President of the American Pioneer Trails Association; Dr. Harvey Fletcher, former head of the physics Department, Bell Telephone Laboratories and Professor in Columbia University -- later he served as a professor of Physics in Brigham Young University and Dean of the Graduate School; Dr. E.V. Kidder Chief Archeologist for the Carnegie Foundation, Washington DC; Dr. John Widsoe, Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, former president of Utah State Agricultural College, and former President of the University of Utah; Thomas J. Yates, Scientist and Theologian, former electrical engineer of Utah Power and Light Company; James Moss, Principal of the Granite High School, Salt Lake City and father of Senator Frank Moss of Utah; Roscoe Pound, eminent attorney and expert on Constitutional Law, Professor of Law University of Nebraska, later Dean of Harvard Law School; William Guy, Governor of North Dakota; Reed O. Dingman, MD, Professor of Surgery and Chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Michigan, and a former student of Avard Fairbanks; James Cash Penny, Founder of the J.C. Penny Company.

One portrait of special significance is an excellent study and intimately felt portrait of his older brother, J. Leo Fairbanks, former Supervisor of Art in the Salt Lake City Public Schools. He organized the city's first Planning Commission and later moved to Oregon State University where he was Chairman of the Fine Arts Department.

There are many other portraits of historic figures that have been placed in prominent public locations.

The Pony Express has always been a topic of interest for historians. It has also captured the interest of artists. He modeled a sketch in demonstration lectures before various groups, and in time the life size model was displayed in the Salt Lake City Parade. Bill Harrah of Reno Nevada took a keen interest in history, particularly history that pertained to transportation. He commissioned Dr. Fairbanks to create a heroic monument to the Pony Express and its courageous young riders. It differed from the portrayal of the parade float. The monument had one horse and one rider, but it was still very impressive. It was erected and dedicated at State Line, Lake Tahoe on the Pony Express Trail. Mr. Harrah was so well pleased that he ordered a duplicate for Reno, Nevada that is also on the old trail.

From among Fairbanks' small sculptures may be noted the creation of medals of distinction. These include the Washington Roebling Medal, awarded each year by the Mineralogical Society of America; the Appreciation Medal, given each year to the First Citizen of Portland, Oregon; Faith in Man and His Works, for the United States National Bank, Portland, Oregon; The Will to Achieve for the Oregon Mutual Life Insurance Company in Portland: and the Utah Centennial Emblem titled Vision and Our Heritage.

Another medal with international significance is Courage, Dedicated To All Who Have The Courage To Face Adversity With A Conquering Spirit. This was presented to Prime Minister Winston Churchill by Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King during the second World War, at a conference of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Nations of Great Britain. The same medal was also presented to President Dwight Eisenhower by the Sons of the Utah Pioneers soon after his election. Another study in numismatic art was a plaque, commissioned through the Medallic Art Company by the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers. It portrays Daniel C. Jackling, developer of the Bingham Canyon open pit mine in Utah.

Recognition of outstanding Doctors of Medicine have been honored by bronze reliefs. Among these are: Dr. Harley Haynes, Director of the University Hospital, University of Michigan; Dr. Fred Stauffer of Salt Lake City, Utah in the Medical Arts Building; Dr. Maxwell Wintrobe, eminent hematologist at the University of Utah; Dr. Willard Richards and sons at a medical Clinic, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Dr. John E. Bordley, Andelot Professor of Otolaryngology and Otology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

Besides the teaching of students in Universities, Dr. Fairbanks has sought to extend the influence of Fine Art to the public by his demonstration lectures of a variety of subjects from portraits and figures to animals. These have been presented to such diverse groups as Secondary and High Schools, Garden Clubs, Professional Women's Clubs, Medical Societies, Men's Service Clubs, Art Guilds, Church Groups and College Faculty Meetings. He has been shown on Television on several occasions.

Regarding personal matters, the demands of teaching and creative sculpture have not served as an exclusion to family life. As the years went by the family increased. Of the eight sons, the first was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, three were born in Eugene, Oregon, and four were born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Each son received instruction, personal attention, and practical experience in modeling and casting sculpture. Finish work, such as retouching and coloring was included in the training. Preparation for exhibits or placement of monuments became a part of the family enterprise. The boys were also taught photography and had the opportunity to assist in photographic reproduction of sculpture.

Lecture and commissions often called the sculptor out of town, but sometimes part and occasional all of the family would travel with him. Visits to Museums, historic points of interest, and National Parks would be included on the way. In fact, the boys traveled more than most of their classmates. Boy Scout work, camping, and outdoor activities were an important part of family life. As the boys matured, two have chosen careers in Engineering, two continued in Art, and four have studied to become Doctors of Medicine.

Maude Fairbanks had always hoped for a daughter, but although she was disappointed, she remained undaunted. During a tour of Greece, following the dedication of the monument to Lycurgus, at Sparta in 1955, she and Avard happened to visit an orphanage in that city. Maude's heart was moved when she saw many beautiful little girls. She wanted a daughter and asked if she could adopt one or even two. The administrator said they would try to arrange an adoption. Several months were necessary to obtain the papers, but in time, notification was received that a small would arrive at the Salt Lake airport. The seven year old girl arrived unattended, probably bewildered, but well cared for by the airline hostess and happy. Three weeks later her eleven year old sister arrived. They adapted well to the family and were readily accepted by their new brothers.

The girls were from a family of five children living in Yerkion, Greece. Their grandfather had been killed after World War II when the Communists tried to take over Greece by fostering a revolution. Their father had been killed later by an accident. The older children and mother survived on small jobs and by gleaning in olive orchards. The opportunity for adoption was a sad but welcome relief to the family. As years passed occasional letters were exchanged. Maria entered college, was soon married and started rearing a family. One year, Georgia, in a joyful reunion was able to visit her mother and brothers. They had emigrated to Australia. Later, during a trip to Greece accompanying her foster parents, she was able to visit her grandmother, who died soon afterwards, at 105 years of age, happy that her grand daughters had received fine care. Georgia studied music in college and taught voice in Salt Lake City Schools.

 

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