Citation: For his stunning body of work -- including the Washington National Cathedral's Creation Sculptures and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial's Three Soldiers -- which heralded a new age for contemporary public art.
American master sculptor Frederick Hart is recognized for creating work--at once traditional in its adherence to the human figure, radical in its sensuality, and innovative in its materials--which has brought about a resurgence of interest in the human figure and in the idea of beauty in contemporary American art. Michael Novak with the American Enterprise Institute wrote in 2004, “The work of Frederick Hart is changing the world of art,” vindicating the artist’s strong belief that with the new century would come changing tides in the style, form, and direction of the arts.
Hart gained international stature for his The Creation Sculptures on the west facade of Washington National Cathedral, which include three tympana Ex Nihilo (Out of Nothing), Creation of Day and Creation of Night, and three trumeau figures, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Adam carved in Indiana limestone. The cathedral, located in Washington, D.C. is the sixth largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The works were commissioned in 1974, and dedicated between 1978-84. Author Tom Wolfe commented in The New York Times in January 2000, "(Hart) won what would turn out to be the biggest and most prestigious commission for religious sculpture in America in the twentieth century."
One of the most visited monuments in Washington, D.C. is Hart’s heroic bronze statue Three Soldiers, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, dedicated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Hart is also represented in the U.S. Senate by the heroic marble statue of Senator Richard Russell in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building; the bronze bust of Senator Strom Thurmond, installed in the Strom Thurmond Room of the Capitol Building; and the marble bust of J. Danforth Quayle created for the Senate’s Vice Presidential Bust Collection. Hart was also commissioned to create the James Earl Carter Presidential Statue in bronze installed at the Georgia State House, Atlanta.
Hart pioneered the use of clear acrylic resin to create cast figurative sculptures. He patented the process by which one clear acrylic sculpture was embedded within another. In 1997, Hart presented a unique casting of The Cross of the Millennium to Pope John Paul II in a private ceremony at the Vatican in Rome. When it was unveiled Pope John Paul II called this sculpture “a profound theological statement for our day.”
Frederick Hart was articulate in describing the passion and vision that drove him to create such works of beauty. He said, “I believe that art has a moral responsibility, that it must pursue something higher than itself. Art must be a part of life. It must exist in the domain of the common man. It must be an enriching, ennobling, and vital partner in the public pursuit of civilization. It should be a majestic presence in everyday life just as it was in the past.”
Frederick Hart died in 1999.