Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fountain of the Three Rivers

Fountain of the Three Rivers (1924) - Alexander Stirling Calder
Logan Circle, 20th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The jets of water are turned off during these winter months, leaving the Fountain of the Three Rivers somewhat bleak and inanimate, just as the rivers it allegorically represents are bleak, frozen or ice filled this winter.

Fountain of the Three Rivers

Representing a river with a reclining nude god is a motif that has been employed for thousands of years in municipal art.

The largest of the three rivers is the Delaware River, represented by a powerful Indian male. He reaches above his head for his bow, while a fish leaps above him.
Delaware River
Delaware River - detail

The smaller Schuylkill River and its tributary, the Wissahickon Creek, are represented by female nudes. Swans are integral to these figures, an intended pun by Calder on the name of the donor. Maria Elizabeth Swann bequeathed funds for the fountain in honor of her husband, Dr. Wilson Carey Swann, founder and president of the Philadelphia Fountain Society; the fountain is also known as the Swann Memorial Fountain.

The Schuylkill River is represented by a mature woman holding the neck of a swan ...

Schuylkill River
Schuylkill River - detail

... while the Wissahickon Creek (smallest of the three rivers) is an Indian girl leaning on her side. Her posture is sometimes described as modest, but ... she is resting in the lap of a swan (if swans have laps), bringing to mind the classical account of Leda and the Swan.

Wissahickon Creek
Wissahickon Creek - detail
 I look forward to returning to Logan Circle when jets of water will animate the fountain and impart a whole different feel to the sculptures.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kopernick Memorial

The Kopernik Memorial (1972) by Dudley Talcott, 18th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway - donated by Polish Americans in honor of the 500th anniversary of his birth.

This stainless steel sculpture honors Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernick - 1473-1543) who laid the foundations of modern astronomy.

Kopernick Memorial (1972)

 The earth orbits the sun whose rays extend to infinity.

Kopernik Memorial - 18th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway

At most angles, the sculpture is set against modern buildings, appropriate to the scientist who laid the foundations of the modern understanding of the earth, world, and universe.

At other angles, the sculpture is set against the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, a reminder that Kopernik formulated his heliocentric universe against the canon of the Church which insisted on an earth-centered orthodoxy and held the political power to threaten anyone who deviated from its doctrine of truth.

Kopernick Memorial - Dome of Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul

The bulk of the cathedral seems to loom over Kopernik ...

... but ultimately, rigid belief systems cannot stand against the preponderance of evidence.

The sculpture also suggests Kopernik's homemade astronomical instruments.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

City Sights - details

Details from around center city - no commentary or description - dismiss the caption if you want - make of them what your eye or mind would like ...

Daily Paper Delivery


Sign Boy

Timely Choices

Bus Stop

City Hall - Present

Winter Fountain

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Neighborhood Homes

Neighborhood homes - Manayunk (once known as the, Manchester of America, still retains its European hill town character, preserved in its worker homes) and Roxborough ("suburban" residences of the Victorian era)

Eyes on the Sky

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


On a busy sidewalk opposite City Hall is a massive bronze sculpture with interlocking lobes which symbolize the interdependence of people, government, and industry:

"Triune" (1974) - Robert Engman

"Triune" (1874) - Robert Engman
Encountering this kind of art captures my imagination as it swirls above the busy street - the line, the form, the movement, the colors ...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Presidents on Presidents' Day

Statuary honoring presidents is scattered across the city, and I have barely begun to discover it.

In the city which cradled the United States, it is no surprise that the most monumental honor goes to George Washington. The Washington Monument holds center stage in Eakins Circle, at the foot of the steps of the Museum of Art.

The large and complex monument of bronze and granite is 44' high. Washington, soldier and statesman, gazes down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to City Hall at the other end - capped with the statue of William Penn, city founder and Quaker pacifist.

"Washington Monument" (1897) - Rudolph Siemering

The size of the monument makes it a challenging subject for the photographer. Its many elements make it a feast for the camera lens. I will return to it again. For now, details of the main figure, George Washington.

Washington Monument - detail, Washington mounted

Washington Monument - detail
In terms of stature and place in history, Garfield is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Washington. He was not an outstanding soldier, congressman, or statesman, and his presidential term was cut very short by an assassin. But the commission for his statue was given to Augustus Saint-Gaudens who gave the "James A. Garfield Monument" (1895) charm and accessibility. (Located on Kelly Drive south of Girard Avenue Bridge)

"James A. Garfield Monument" (1895) - Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Garfield Monument - detail
Garfield Monument - detail
Ulysses S. Grant has not been judged as a president with the greatest of kindness, but he was well liked by the public during his presidency, and admired through his life for his role in the Civil War.
His monument at the intersection of Kelly Drive and Fountain Green Drive was a collaboration between Daniel Chester French and Edward C. Potter, the latter noted for his modeling of horses.

General Ulysses S. Grant Monument (1897) - Daniel Chest French & Edward C. Potter

General Ulysses S. Grant Monument (1897)

General Grant Monument - detail

Friday, February 13, 2015


A couple of clear, brisk days sent me exploring. As I returned home with several hundred images, mostly of the public art of the city, I realized that this vast array is going to occupy much of this blog.

Winter is a time when the colors of the world are reduced to variations of brown, gray, white, and often drab. So I begin with the dash of color provided by Robert Indiana's "LOVE" (1976), located in Kennedy Plaza, the "city" end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

"Love" - Robert Indiana - painted aluminum
Indiana loaned his "LOVE" image to the city in 1976. After two year, when the city could not decide to purchase the sculpture, it was removed to New York City. An immediate public uproar ensued. A local businessman and chairman of the Philadelphia Art Commission purchased the work and donated it to the city. It was returned to Kennedy Plaza.

View from Kennedy Plaza up the Parkway to the Museum of Art
One only needs to watch a short time to see how the work attracts people.

A picture for Valentine's Day - or any day.
The reverse of "LOVE" is still "LOVE."
Someone said something like, "Consistency is the refuge of small minds." I began my recent discoveries with "LOVE" because it has bold colors to offset the drabs of winter. But that does not constrain me from exploring the "black and white" of "LOVE."

"LOVE" in black and white
So many shades and nuances ... in love ... in Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Open Air Art - Horticulture Center

Back in November, we were on our way to Heinz NWR when traffic on the Schuykill Expressway ground to a halt. We exited at City Avenue, then made our way to the Horticulture Center in Fairmont Park.

The gardens were in the expected November state of blah, but that did not detract from the discovery of the open air art scattered around the gardens and ponds.

"The Wrestlers"

Parking the car, we were greeted with “The Wrestlers.” Based on a 3rd century B.C. Greek original, the 1st century Roman marble copy is in the Uffizi in Florence, Italy. This bronze cast was made in Paris in 1885 and donated to Fairmount Park Art Association by its first president, philanthropist Anthony Drexel .

"Joseph Hayden" (1906)

Much of Philly’s out door statuary is what I would call “conventional monumental” (19th and early 20th century) . It is often overlooked and dismissed, as for example, this bust of "Joseph Hayden" (1906). It shouldn’t be.

A lively personality, like Hayden’s lively baroque compositions, is evident. I am also intrigued with the texture of the work as the natural elements have (and continue) to evolve colors and patterns in the work.

"Joseph Hayden" (1906)

"Sundial" (1903)

Natural elements have not been quite so kind to the Art-Nouveau “Sundial” (1903) by Alexander Stirling Calder. The limestone base with its four nubile representations of the four seasons looks weather-worn.

"Sundial" - detail

"Night" (1872)

Philadelphians seem to have an appreciation of female beauty; there is no shortage of semi-nude statuary adorning the city. Not far from Calder’s “Sundial” is the first gift to the Fairmont Park Art Association: “Night” (1872) by Edward Stauch. Descending darkness is allegorically represented by a shrouded woman.

"Night" - detail

In a completely different mode, “Pavilion in the Trees” (1992? - Martin Puryear), made of durable woods, is a sixty-foot walkway across a natural basin to an observation platform covered by a latticed canopy. Like a tree house in the tree tops, even on an iffy November day it provided a place for contemplation.
"Pavilion in the Trees" (1992)

Whimsical is the word that comes first to mind for “Three Boys on a Log.” I have not been able to find anything else on this work. It brought a smile to my face.

"Three Boys on a Log"
"Three Boys on a Log" - detail

"Three boys on a Log"

Not whimsical, but delightful in many other ways “Gambol I and Gambol II” (1992 -Robert D. Lasus) is two horse crafted abstractly in stainless steel. They gambol across the grass and among the park trees evoking the freedoms and joys of life.

"Gambol I & Gambol II