Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial (1933 – 1961)

by Various Artists

Photo Caption: Photo Alec Rogers © 2014 for the Association for Public Art
Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River, south of the Girard Avenue Bridge
1933 - 1961

  • Title

    Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial

  • Artist

    Various Artists

  • Year

    1933-1961

Commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the Association for Public Art


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At A Glance

  • Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program

  • The Association for Public Art established and maintains the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial: three terraces and seventeen sculptures commissioned over thirty years

  • Three international exhibitions were held to identify artists for the terraces

  • Expresses the theme of the settlement of the eastern coast and the emergence of the U.S. as an independent and democratic nation

The Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) established and maintains the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial. The Memorial includes three terraces and seventeen sculptures that were commissioned over a period of thirty years.

…she left the bulk of her estate in trust to the Art Association, specifying that the income be used to create a series of sculptural monuments “emblematic of the history of America.”

Ellen Phillips Samuel was a member of the Fairmount Park Art Association and a supporter of many cultural activities in Philadelphia. When she died in 1913, she left the bulk of her estate in trust to the Art Association, specifying that the income be used to create a series of sculptural monuments “emblematic of the history of America.” When these funds became available upon the death of her husband in 1929, the Art Association appointed a planning committee, which decided that the Samuel Memorial should express major ideas and spiritual forces as well as chronological developments in American history.

To identify sculptors, the committee organized three international exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These Sculpture Internationals, in 1933, 1940, and 1949, brought together the works of hundreds of sculptors from the United States and abroad. The exhibitions contributed not only to the Samuel Memorial but also to the general awareness of contemporary sculpture throughout the Philadelphia area.

The Third Sculpture International in 1949
Sculpture International 1949

The committee completed its work with the dedication of the Samuel Memorial in 1961. Since then, two notable changes have been made. John J. Boyle’s Stone Age in America (1887) was relocated in 1985 from the Sweetbriar Mansion area to a location just south of the South Terrace, where it expands on the Memorial’s sculptural evocation of American history. And Jacques Lipchitz’s The Spirit of Enterprise (1950-1960) originally on the North Terrace, was moved to the Central Terrace in 1986 to increase its visibility.

Central Terrace

Construction of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial began with the Central Terrace. Six sculptors were commissioned to create two large bronze monuments and four complementary figures in limestone. These works express the twin themes of America’s westward expansion and the new nation’s welcome to immigrants from other lands.

Voices heard in the program:

Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Association for Public Art and the author of many books and articles about Philadelphia’s public art.

Kathleen A. Foster is Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Michael Taylor was Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the author of Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia.

Segment Producer: Amanda Aronczyk and Ave Carrillo

Sculptures in the Central Terrace:

South Terrace

After the second Sculpture International in 1940, the committee selected four sculptors to express the governing themes of the new South Terrace—the settlement of the eastern coast and the emergence of the United States as an independent, democratic nation. The two principal groups were carved as reliefs, the other four sculptures as free-standing figures.

Voices heard in the program:

Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Association for Public Art and the author of many books and articles about Philadelphia’s public art.

Kathleen A. Foster is Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Michael W. Zuckerman is Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and specializes in American Studies. He served on the Consultant Board for PBS “History Detectives” and is the Museum Without Walls Consulting Historian.

Segment Producer: Amanda Aronczyk and Ave Carrillo

Sculptures in the South Terrace:

North Terrace

The development of the North Terrace inaugurated the final stage of the Samuel Memorial. Here, the intention was to express not historical periods or movements but rather the spiritual, intellectual, and physical “inner energies” that shaped the nation.

Two major bronze groups were to represent “social consciousness” and “constructive enterprise,” and the commissions were offered to Jacob Epstein and Jacques Lipchitz. As Epstein and Lipchitz progressed, it became apparent that their two massive monuments would not fit comfortably in the same terrace. Thus Epstein’s Social Consciousness never became part of the Samuel Memorial; rather, it was installed at the western entrance of the Art Museum. Lipchitz’s The Spirit of Enterprise served as the centerpiece of the North Terrace until in 1986 it was moved to the Central Terrace to increase its visibility from Kelly Drive.

Voices heard in the program:

Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Association for Public Art and the author of many books and articles about Philadelphia’s public art.

Kathleen A. Foster is Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Michael Taylor was Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the author of Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia.

Segment Producer: Amanda Aronczyk and Ave Carrillo

Sculptures in the North Terrace:

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A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.

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Photo Albert Yee © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, audio download, or on the web – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.

Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an “authentic voice” – someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation. Over 150 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.

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