Spanning the Continent (1937)

by Robert Laurent (1890 - 1970)

Photo Caption: Photo Alec Rogers © 2015 for the Association for Public Art
Central Terrace of Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial (north of Boathouse Row on Kelly Drive)
1937

  • Title

    Spanning the Continent

  • Artist

    Robert Laurent (1890 - 1970)

  • Year

    1937; installed 1938

  • Medium

    Bronze, on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 9’2″, width 7'10 1/2", depth 3'11" (base height 3′, width 8'10", depth 4'10")

Commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art), bequest of Ellen Phillips Samuel

Owned by the City of Philadelphia


Museum Without Walls Audio

0:00/ 0:00

Download Museum Without Walls audio file

At A Glance

Spanning the Continent, Robert Laurent’s interpretation of the American migration westward, was the first sculpture installed in the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial in 1938 by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art). The work was described by art critic Dorothy Grafly as an expression of “rugged individualism;” the man and woman are “taking the continent in their stride, wheel between them, and ax in hand.”

Born in the Breton region of France, Laurent was discovered at the age of 11 by the American art critic and painter Hamilton Easter Field, who brought the young artist to the United States and supervised his education. In his adopted country, Laurent became a pioneer in the revival of direct carving in wood and stone.

Central Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial on Kelly Drive
The Central Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial. Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art.

Central Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial

Construction of the 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.

Sculptures in the Central Terrace:

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

Museum Without Walls logo: a program of the Association for Public Art

 

Voices heard in the program:

Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) 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

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.

User calls Museum Without Walls Audio for Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture
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.

LEARN MORE >>

Loading map...

More artworks

Need More Information?

General Inquiries

info@associationforpublicart.org or call 215.546.7550