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Lorado Zadoc Taft (April 29, 1860 – October 30, 1936) was an American sculptor, writer and educator. Taft was born in Elmwood, Illinois in 1860 and died in his home studio in Chicago in 1936.[1]

Pastoral, by Lorado Taft

Pastoral, by Lorado Taft, Garfield Park Conservatory.

Early years and education
Alma Mater at Urbana

After being homeschooled by his parents, Taft earned his bachelor’s degree (1879) and master’s degree (1880) from the University of Illinois where his father was a professor of geology.[2] The same year he left for Paris to study sculpture, he continued to maintain his connections with the university in Urbana and his sculpture of Alma Mater at Urbana has come to symbolize something significant.

Student Veteran Memorial by Lorado Taft (Hillsdale College, 1895)

Student Veteran Memorial by Lorado Taft (Hillsdale College, 1895)

In Paris, Taft attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he studied with Augustin Dumont, Jean-Marie Bonnassieux and Jules Thomas. Upon returning to the United States in 1886 he settled in Chicago. He taught at the Art Institute of Chicago, a post he was to remain at until 1929.

In 1892, while the art community of Chicago was in a-twitter preparing for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, chief architect Daniel Burnham expressed concern to Taft that the sculptural adornments to the buildings might not be finished on time. Taft asked if he could employ some of his female students as assistants (it was not socially accepted for women to work as sculptors at that time) for the Horticultural Building, Burnham responded with the classic reply, ‘Hire anyone, even white rabbits if they’ll do the work." From that arose a group of talented women sculptors who were to retain the name, "the White Rabbits." These included Enid Yandell, Carol Brooks MacNeil, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, Janet Scudder, and Julia Bracken. Later another former student, Francis Loring, noted that Taft used his students’ talents to further his own career, a not uncommon observation by students regarding their teachers. In general, history has given Taft credit for helping to advance the status of women as sculptors.

His was not an entirely urban-centered life. In 1898, he was a founding member of the Eagle's Nest Art Colony.

Later years
Taft at work on Fountain of Time in 1913 in Lorado Taft Midway Studios

In 1903 Taft published The History of American Sculpture, the first survey of the subject. In some settings, Taft is perhaps better known for his published writings than for his sculpture. The revised 1925 version of this text was to remain the standard reference on this subject until Wayne Craven published "Sculpture in America" in 1968.

As Taft grew older, his eloquent speaking skills and compelling writing led Taft, along with Frederick Ruckstull, to the forefront of sculpture’s conservative ranks, where he often served as a spokesperson against the modern and abstract trends which developed in sculpture during his lifetime. Taft's frequent lecture tours for the Chautauqua also gave him a broad, popular celebrity status in this period.

In 1921, Taft published Modern Tendencies in Sculpture, a compilation of his lectures given at the Art Institute of Chicago. The book continues to be regarded as an excellent survey of American sculpture in the early years of the 20th century; and it offered a distinct perspective on the development of European sculpture at that time.

Among other honors, Taft's accomplishments were recognized by his election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters (now known as the American Academy of Arts and Letters). He was active until the end of his life. The week before he died, he attended the Quincy, Illinois dedication ceremonies for his sculpture celebrating the Lincoln-Douglas debates.[1]

Sculptor's body of work

Lorado Taft was a member of the National Sculpture Society and exhibited at both their 1923 and 1929 shows. Today Taft is best remembered for his various fountains.

Fountain of Time
Taft's self-portrait on the Fountain of Time

After more than a dozen years of work Taft's Fountain of Time was unveiled at the west end of Chicago's Midway Plaisance in 1922. Based on poet Austin Dobson's lines: "Time goes, you say? Ah no, Alas, time stays, we go." the fountain shows a cloaked figure of time observing the stream of humanity flowing past.

Pioneer & Patriot Groups for the Louisiana State Capitol Building

The last major commission that Taft was to complete in his life was two groups for the front entrance to the Louisiana State Capitol Building, dedicated in 1932.

Selected commissions
The Soldiers' Monument, Oregon, Illinois.

* General Ulysses S. Grant Monument Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas 1889
* Black Hawk Statue Monument, Oregon, Illinois
* The Soldiers' Monument, Oregon, Illinois
* Fountain of Time, Chicago, Illinois
* Heald Square Monument, Chicago, Illinois
* Fountain of the Great Lakes, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
* The Solitude of the Soul, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
* Student Veteran Memorial, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan 1895
* Two Groups, Louisiana State Capitol, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
* Columbus Statue, Washington D.C.
* Graves Memorial, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois 1909
* Lawson Monument, the Crusader, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois 1931
* Thatcher Memorial Fountain, Denver, Colorado
* Defense of the Flag, Jackson, Michigan
* William A. Foote Memorial, Jackson, Michigan
* Lincoln the Lawyer, Urbana, Illinois
* Alma Mater, University of Illinois
* Chief Paduke Statue, Jefferson Street, Paducah, Kentucky
* Frances Elizabeth Willard (plaque), Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1929[3]

Midway studios

There is a biography and other material about Lorado Taft available in this reference describing the 1965 National Historic Landmark-designated Lorado Taft Midway Studios.[4]


1. ^ a b "Mr. Lorado Taft Dies; Leading Sculptor; Creator of Some of Country's Outstanding Monuments is Stricken at 76; Was Teacher in Chicago; Fountain of Time and Columbus Memorial in Washington Among Chief Works," New York Times. October 31, 1936.
2. ^ Taft's association with the University is commemorated by a residence hall named in his honor.
3. ^ Scherrer, Anton. "Our Town." Indianapolis Times. 18 April 1939.
4. ^ Blanche Higgins Schroer (April 3, 1976) (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Lorado Taft Midway Studios. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-27 and Accompanying 10 photos, exterior and interior, from 1975 and undatedPDF (2.97 MB)


* Bach, Ira and Mary Lackritz Gray, Chicago’s Public Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1983
* Barnard, Harry, This Great Triumvirate of Patriots – The inspiring Story behind Lorado Taft’s Chicago Monument to George Washington, Robert Morris and Haym Solomon, Follett Publishing, Chicago Illinois 1971
* Contemporary American Sculpture, The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, San Francisco, The National Sculpture Society 1929
* Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America, Thomas Y. Crowell Co, NY, NY 1968
* Exhibition of American Sculpture Catalogue, 156th Street of Broadway New York, The National Sculpture Society 1923
* Garvey, Timothy J., Public Sculptor – Lorado Taft and the Beautification of Chicago, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois 1988
* Goode, James M. The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. 1974
* Kubly, Vincent, The Louisiana Capitol-Its Art and Architecture, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna 1977
* Kvaran,, Einar Einarsson, Architectural Sculpture of America, unpublished manuscript
* Lanctot, Barbara, A Walk Through Graceland Cemetery, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago, IL 1988
* Opitz, Glenn B, Editor, Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, Apollo Book, Poughkeepsie NY, 1986
* Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, American Women Sculptors, G.K. Hall & Co., Boston 1990
* Scheinman, Muriel, A Guide to the Art of the University of Illinois, University of Illinois Press, Urbana 1995
* Scherrer, Anton. "Our Town." Indianapolis Times. 18 April 1939.
* Taft, Lorado, History of American Sculpture, The MacMillan Company, NY, NY 1925
* Taft, Lorado, Modern Tendencies in Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1921
* Weller, Allen Stuart, Lorado in Paris – the Letters of Lorado Taft 1880–1885, University of Illinois Press, Urbana Illinois 1985

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