We are delighted to dedicate our October 2021 newsletter to Flyover Zone's recently completed project to create two models of the splendid Fountain Group bronze sculpture of American artist Harrison Gibbs (1908-1944). One model shows the current state, or condition, of the sculpture. The other shows how it looked when new in 2013. The sculpture is a much-loved part of the collection of the Peoria Riverfront Museum. We thank the museum and its President & CEO John D. Morris for permission to undertake this project.
We are grateful to Prof. Corey Brennan (Department of Classics, Rutgers University) for the idea behind the project. A former rock star and current distinguished scholar of the Classical world, Prof. Brennan is also a very committed fellow of the American Academy in Rome. This great institution, which occupies the top of the Gianicolo Hill in Rome, has meant so much to generations of American artists and scholars who have lived there for a year or longer as winners of the coveted Prix de Rome.
Prof. Brennan has long lamented the fact that although the Academy has a monument to fellows who fell defending their country in the First World War, there is no equivalent monument on its grounds to commemorate those who died in the Second World War. He thought that nothing would be more appropriate than to create the memorial by using a sculpture by an Academy fellow who died in that war. Through his research, he learned that Harrison Gibbs, the Prix de Rome winner in sculpture from 1936-38, died in battle toward the end of the war. He also learned that Gibbs' daughter, artist Ramona Gibbs, with the help of donors Dr. William H. and Nancy Marshall, had a bronze cast made of the plaster version of a piece that the sculptor created while at the Academy and brought back to the United States in 1938. The bronze was installed in 2013 in the sculpture garden of the Riverfront Museum in Peoria, Illinois. In theory, another bronze cast could be made and shipped to Rome for use in the proposed war memorial.
Although as I write, the Academy has not (yet) decided to move forward with Prof. Brennan's idea of installing such a monument, his thinking has gone off in another direction. Wouldn't it be wonderful, he asked, to use the new digital technologies to create a virtual museum of representative works of the Academy's fellows in the arts from its founding at the end of the nineteenth century until the present? No such physical museum exists, nor, at this late date, can we expect one to be started. A virtual museum could be a worthwhile surrogate, and once it takes root, it will demonstrate the enormous impact that the Academy has had on American artistic life for well over a century.
Flyover Zone found Prof. Brennan's vision inspirational and therefore donated the services of its talented staff to reproduce in 3D the Gibbs Fountain Group sculpture as a first example of what such a virtual museum could include in its collections. We join Prof. Brennan in expressing the hope that this will be but the first seed from which a virtual museum of representative works by the Academy's Prix de Rome winners in the arts will blossom.
I conclude by taking this opportunity to thank Flyover Zone's photographer Carter Conaway, its Art Director Mohamed Abdelaziz, and Ramona Gibbs for their brilliant creative collaboration in creating our two models of the Peoria Riverfront Museum's Fountain Group.
You can see the Gibbs models by following the links below:
-State model (showing the sculpture in March 2021)
-Restoration model (showing the sculpture when first installed on April 17, 2013)
For more about Ramona Gibbs and her project to have her father's sculpture conserved and cast in bronze, click here
For more information about the American Academy in Rome, see: www.aarome.org
--Bernard Frischer, Founder & President, Flyover Zone, FAAR 1976, RAAR 1996, AAR Trustee 2008-2011