Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden

 

(Located on Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River, south of the Girard Avenue Bridge.)

 

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

 

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.

 

Sculptures in the North Terrace:

 

• The Preacher, Waldemar Raemisch

• The Poet, José de Creeft

• The Scientist, Koren der Harootian

• The Laborer, Ahron Ben-Shmuel

• Titles Unknown: Eye and Hand, J. Wallace Kelly

Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial - North Terrace

Vimeo Video

 

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