The Schuylkill Chained and The Schuylkill Freed (1825, casts 1980)

by William Rush (1756 - 1833)

Photo Caption: Photo Caitlin Martin for the Association for Public Art
Fairmount Water Works, North and South Entrance Houses
1825, casts 1980

  • Title

    The Schuylkill Chained and The Schuylkill Freed

  • Artist

    William Rush (1756 - 1833)

  • Year

    Spanish cedar originals c. 1825; casts 1980, installed 1989

  • Medium

    White fiberglass

  • Dimensions

    The Schuylkill Chained: height 3’3.5″; width 7’3.5″; depth 2’2.5″; The Schuylkill Freed: height 3’5.5″; width 7’3.5″; depth 2’6.5″

Spanish cedar originals commissioned by the Watering Committee of the City of Philadelphia

Fiberglass casts commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the City of Philadelphia


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At A Glance

  • Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program

  • The male figure was originally known as Allegory of the Schuylkill River in Its Improved State

  • The female figure was originally known as Allegory of the Waterworks

  • Since 1937, the Spanish cedar originals have been preserved inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • The Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) had copies of the sculptures cast in white fiberglass in conjunction with the renovation of the Water Works

As the Fairmount Water Works expanded in the 1820s, a wonder of contemporary engineering and a famous public garden, the city’s Watering Committee decided to embellish the site with emblematic sculpture. The members did not have to look far for an artist because William Rush, the foremost American sculptor of his era, served on the committee.

Since 1937, Rush’s Spanish cedar originals have been in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rush designed two sculptures to be placed atop the entranceways to the new Fairmount millhouse, where visitors descended for a dramatic view of the gigantic water wheels churning below. The male figure, The Schuylkill Chained, was originally known as Allegory of the Schuylkill River in Its Improved State – a title that gives a clearer idea of Rush’s intentions. The female figure was originally called Allegory of the Waterworks. The allegory of the “improved” river draws on traditional representations of river gods, but Rush’s wild old man with flowing beard – the arms scarcely restrained by the chains of civic improvement – has a unique energy and strength.

Around the figure the waters gush out in many directions. Beside his feet is an American eagle, wings outspread. The female figure forms a sharp contrast. This classical young woman holds one graceful hand above a water wheel as if to demonstrate its elegance and power. Behind her, a large vase represents the Fairmount resevoir. Even her platform of bolted steel indicates the artifice of civilization.

The Fairmount Waterworks along the Schuylkill River.
The Fairmount Waterworks along the Schuylkill River. Photo Caitlin Martin © 2013 for the Association for Public Art.

Since 1937, Rush’s Spanish cedar originals have been in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1980, the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) had copies of the sculptures cast in white fiberglass in conjunction with the renovation of the Water Works. The casts were installed on the refurbished entrance houses in 1989.

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

 

RESOURCES

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

 

Voices heard in the program:

Dr. David R. Brigham is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He received his doctorate in American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania.

Karen Young is the Director of the Philadelphia Water Department’s Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, which tells the story of the Schuylkill River and its human connections throughout history.

Linda Bantel is a curator and former Director of the Museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She is the author of William Rush, American Sculptor.

Segment Producer: Ave Carillo

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

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