Thomas Jefferson (Bitter)

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Thomas Jefferson is one of several versions of a statue of Thomas Jefferson executed by Karl Bitter.

Cuyahoga County Courthouse[edit]

Statue at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse

In 1911, Bitter completed a bronze statue of Jefferson that flanks the steps leading into the Cuyahoga County Courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio. It is one of four statues Bitter created for the project, the others being a bronze Alexander Hamilton and two marble attic figures, John Somers and Lord Mansfield. Jefferson is portrayed wearing 18th-century clothes, sitting in a klismos chair holding "papers of state in hand."[1] According to Ferdinand Schevill, "It is a youthful and rebellious Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence who appears before us in Cleveland."[2] James Dennis describes the statue as having a "generally rustic appearance" in contrast to the nearby Hamilton whom he sees as an "aggressive young aristocrat."[3] The work was cast by the Roman Bronze Works.[4]

Jefferson Memorial Building, Missouri[edit]

In 1904 Karl Bitter served as the director of sculpture at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which was held in St. Louis to celebrate the centenary of the Louisiana Purchase. Among the works Bitter created for the Exposition was the Signing of the Purchase Treaty plaque.[5] In 1909 the executive committee of the exposition realized that the exposition had actually generated a profit. Instead of attempting to divide the profit among the exposition's 15,000 stockholders, the committee decided to build a Jefferson Memorial in St. Louis because of the central role Jefferson played in the Louisiana Purchase. At the time, the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. had not been constructed. Architects were hired and, after the usual issues surrounding attempting to design by committee were resolved, Isaac S. Taylor designed the Jefferson Memorial Building, which now hosts the Missouri History Museum. The building included a slightly re-worked version of the Signing of the Purchase Treaty bas relief, but the centerpiece of the memorial was a monumental-sized marble statue of Jefferson by Bitter. Bitter had already produced a seated Jefferson for the Cuyahoga County Courthouse in Cleveland, so his work proceeded fairly quickly, though the statue in St. Louis depicted a more aged, careworn version of the man than the statue in Cleveland.[6] The statue was roughed out of a forty-five ton block of marble in Italy and shipped to St. Louis where Bitter finished the carving in situ.[7] The statue was completed in 1913.[8]

University of Virginia[edit]

Shortly after the unveiling of the St. Louis statue Bitter received a commission from Charles R. Crane and Edwin Alderman to create a replica of the Jefferson statue for the University of Virginia, a school to which Jefferson had strong ties.[9][10] For this work Bitter slightly modified the previous statue, changing the position of the right arm slightly and aging Jefferson once again.[9] Instead of being carved from marble this version was cast in bronze by the Roman Bronze Works and dedicated on April 13, 1915,[11] days after Bitter was killed.

Jefferson High School, Portland, Oregon[edit]

The Portland statue in 2007

Another casting of the statue is located outside Jefferson High School in north Portland, Oregon, United States. The statue, which overlooks the football and track fields on the north side of the school, depicts Thomas Jefferson seated on a draped chair with his arm resting on its back. His right arm rests in his lap and holds a pen and papers. The bronze measures 5 feet (1.5 m) x 2.5 feet (0.76 m) x 3.5 feet (1.1 m) and sits on a stone base that measures 5 feet (1.5 m) x 3.5 feet (1.1 m) x 4 feet (1.2 m).[12]

One inscription displays: KARL BITTER ROMAN BRONZE WORKS NEW YORK, NY. The front of the plinth reads: THE GIFT OF THE ALUMNI AND STUDENTS OF JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL AND / BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE / JUNE 1915. The base's west side displays: BEAR IN MIND THIS SACRED PRINCIPAL, THAT / THOUGH THE WILL OF THE MAJORITY IS IN / ALL CASES TO PREVAIL, THAT WILL, TO BE / RIGHTFUL, MUST BE REASONABLE; THAT THE / MINORITY POSSESS THEIR EQUAL RIGHTS, / WHICH EQUAL LAWS MUST PROTECT, / AND TO VIOLATE WOULD BE OPPRESSION." / THOMAS JEFFERSON. The east side of the base includes inscriptions of the foundry Roman Bronze Works' mark as well as the text: THE GREATEST SERVICE WHICH CAN BE / RENDERED TO ANY COUNTRY IS TO ADD / A USEFUL PLANT TO ITS CULTURE." / THOMAS JEFFERSON.[12]

Jefferson High School graduates suggested installing a statue of the president on the campus in June 1913. The statue was dedicated in May 1916, having been funded by alumni, current students, and members of School District Number One's board of directors, who pledged to match the students' donation. In all $2,400 was raised for the work.[13][14] It was surveyed and considered "treatment needed" by the Smithsonian Institution's "Save Outdoor Sculpture!" program in December 1993.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Campen 1980, p. 26.
  2. ^ Schevill 1917, p. 44.
  3. ^ Dennis 1967, pp. 153–157.
  4. ^ "Thomas Jefferson, (sculpture)". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  5. ^ Schevill 1917, pp. 43, 52.
  6. ^ Dennis 1967, pp. 175–186.
  7. ^ McCue 1988, p. 74.
  8. ^ "Thomas Jefferson, (sculpture)". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Schevill 1917, pp. 52–53.
  10. ^ Dennis 1967, pp. 281–282.
  11. ^ "Thomas Jefferson, (sculpture)". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c "Thomas Jefferson, (sculpture)". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
  13. ^ "Jefferson Statue Tenderly Unveiled; 1800 Students and Citizens Take Part in Ceremonies at High School Event". The Morning Oregonian. May 2, 1916. p. 10.
  14. ^ "Jefferson Unveils Statue of Patron; Several Thousand Attend Ceremony: History of Monument Is Given". The Evening Telegram. Portland, Oregon. May 2, 1916. p. 10.

Sources[edit]

  • Campen, Richard N. (1980). Outdoor Sculpture in Ohio. Chagrin Falls, Ohio: West Summit Press.
  • Dennis, James M. (1967). Karl Bitter: Architectural Sculptor, 1867–1915. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • McCue, George (1988). Sculpture City, St. Louis: public sculpture in the "Gateway to the West". New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with Laumeier International Sculpture Park, St. Louis.
  • Schevill, Ferdinand (1917). Karl Bitter: A Biography. University of Chicago Press.