Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Bowman and the Spearman


The Bowman and the Spearman, 1928
Ivan Meštrović
Congress Plaza
East of South Michigan Avenue at East Congress Parkway

            Flanking Congress Plaza and serving as a dramatic frame for the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain, these two bronze equestrian portraits of Native Americans appear as silhouettes against the sky as drivers pass by on Congress Parkway. In the original design for the area by architects Holabird & Roche, the figures were intended to bracket a monumental stairway, but it was removed in the 1940s when Congress Street was extended. The nude male figures twist and strain as one prepares to shoot an arrow and the other to throw a spear. The weapons, however, have been left to the imagination while attention is focused upon the bold lines of the musculature of both man and beast, as well as the linear patterns of the horses’ manes and tails and the figures’ headdresses.
            Commissioned by the B. F. Ferguson Fund, the two sculptures were created by Croatian Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962).  Cast in Zagreb and then shipped to the United States, the statues stand upon pedestals designed by Holabird & Roche and reach a height of 35 feet. Having endured a period of imprisonment and then exile during World War II, Meštrović was unwilling to return to Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito and he accepted a position as professor at Syracuse University in 1947. In 1954 he became an American citizen and from 1955 until his death in 1962, he taught at the University of Notre Dame and created several highly regarded works of religious sculpture.  

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