Notable quotes and inspirational quotes by The Organic View Radio Show.

The Fountain of Life, NYBG

The Fountain of Life, at the New York Botanical Garden. (Photo: @JuneStoyer)
The dramatic Fountain of Life dominates its formal setting in front of the Library Building and anchors the top end of one of the Botanical Garden's signature plantings, Tulip Tree Allée. Dignified rows of century-old tulip trees with soaring vertical trunks frame one's approach to the sculpture and the Library Building.

An Allegorical Masterpiece of its Era
The Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life features a joyful sea nymph and a pair of heroic seahorses pulling a seashell chariot through the crest of a wave. As cherubic attendants struggle to control the beasts, a startled mermaid and merman hurry out of the way. The heroic composition epitomizes the Beaux Arts aesthetic at the end of the 19th century in New York. The sculpture is an ideal complement to the Library Building, which was designed by architect Robert Gibson in the Beaux Arts style.

The Fountain of Life was originally constructed in 1905 according to the design of Charles E. Tefft (1874-1951). The sculpture presents imaginative bronze allegorical figures on a white marble foundation, centered within a white marble basin. The three sculptural groups of otherworldly horses and youthful riders, combined with flowing water, animate the artist's fantastical portrayal of the struggle for existence.

The New York Times noted in 1905 that the fountain showed some departure from classic design types in its depiction of "sea life in fullest action." Tefft's notable touches include the horses' "umbrella" feet, as he called them, an evocative feature not found on earlier European aquatic horses, and the dramatic facial expressions on the fountain's mer-people.

Restoration and Conservation
After enduring 100 years of weather and other vicissitudes, the Fountain of Life has been returned as close as possible to its original appearance, while upgrading plumbing and electrical systems to contemporary standards. The original bronze and ornate marble were repatinated and cleaned, respectively. The mermaid and merman that were part of the original Fountain of Life sculpture were missing for decades. New figures were sculpted by restoration experts based on historical photographs, cast in bronze, and returned to the sculpture. Submersible lighting fixtures have been added to the lower basin and wet/dry fixtures for the top of the pedestal. Lighting accentuates the cascading water and newly restored features.

Principal conservator and designer firm for the reconstruction was Building Conservation Associates, New York City, under the direction of Ray Pepi. A. Ottavino Corp., Ozone Park, NY, headed the team of artists and conservators. A. Ottavino is known for re-building of the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sculptor Charles E. Tefft
Charles (Carl) E. Tefft (1874-1951) was born in Brewer, Maine on September 22, 1874 and exhibited an early interest in art and sculpture. After completing high school, he moved to New York in 1893 to attend the Artist-Artisan Institute. In 1898 Tefft was elected to the faculty of the Artist-Artisan Institute as a professor of sculptural modeling. He established a studio on Staten Island.

Tefft produced two sculptures, Lake Erie and Lake Superior, for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. On April 16, 1903, he was selected as the winner of an open design competition managed by the National Sculpture Society on behalf of The New York Botanical Garden for the sculpture in front of Robert Gibson's new building, which is now known as the Library Building.

Tefft's career peaked in 1925 with his appointment as director of sculpture for the Sesquicentennial International Exposition in Philadelphia. He is also remembered for several public sculptures in his home state of Maine, where he returned in the 1920s. He died in Presque Isle, Maine, on September 20, 1951.


No comments yet.


Random image

Photo info

Popular tags