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WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY SCULPTURE TOUR

John Paul Jones

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GIF Image (391x519)Artist - Charles Grafly
Born - 1862
Origin - America
Year Built - 1928

About the Artist: Born and raised in Philadelphia, Charles Grafly studied under painters Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts between 1884-88. Grafly then enrolled at the Academie Julian under the sculptor Henri-Michel Chapu (1833-91). Sculpture at the Academie was dominated by a Beaux-Arts style, characterized by its use of allegory, mythological themes, and aesthetics reminiscent of classical Greek sculpture. Grafly had three years of successful study before returning to Philadelphia in 1892, where he accepted a job as instructor of modeling at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Grafly worked primarily in public commissions, completing prestigious monuments such as the Pioneer Mother Monument, 1915, in San Francisco and the Memorial to Major General George Gordon Meade, 1927, in Washington, D.C.

In 1971, Dorothy Grafly Drummond, the artist's daughter, gave Wichita State University the contents of Grafly's studio-more than 300 works including most of the plaster models for his bronze sculptures. Under an arrangement between the museum and Mrs. Drummond, the museum continues to cast from the artist's original plasters. Untitled (Icarus), 1894, posthumously cast in 1973, depicts the Greek mythological figure. According to the myth, King Minos feared that the architect Daedalus, who had recently designed the Labyrinth, might divulge the secret pathway through the maze, so the king imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in a high tower. The architect soon devised a means of escape; he collected stray feathers from the windowsill and bound them with wax, creating a pair of wings for himself and his son. As Daedalus and Icarus flew to safety, the father urged his son not to fly too close to the sun. Icarus, ready to exploit his new-found freedom, ignored his father's requests and flew upwards. The heat of the sun melted the wax, and Icarus plunged into the sea where he drowned. Grafly depicts Icarus as he approaches the sun, his eyes turned upwards as though he has realized his fate. The band around the arm indicates the wings that momentarily hold him aloft. In keeping with the narrative, Grafly may have intended this bust to accompany his Daedalus, 1889 (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia).

Like Icarus, Mother and Child, c. 1905, was cast posthumously in 1990 from the plaster in the collection (destroyed). The subject of maternal love was fairly common in nineteenth-century academic sculpture. Although some have argued that the work may be little more than an anatomy study, Grafly may have been playing on the sentimentality of his genteel audience.