Lorado Zadoc Taft (April 29, 1860–October 30, 1936) was a prominent Chicago sculptor who produced several noted Beaux–Arts monuments, including Fountain of Time near the University of Chicago campus. Born in Elmwood, Illinois, Taft received informal training in sculpture before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
After obtaining his Master’s degree in 1879, he studied at the École des Beaux–Arts in Paris, returning to Chicago in 1886 to establish his own sculpture studio. Taft’s early reputation secured him important commissions, including sculptures for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, as well as a lecturing position at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During this time he apprenticed several young women as sculptors—an unheard–of decision for the era. A gifted writer, he published the History of American Sculpture in 1903, which remained the authoritative work on the subject for decades.
Taft moved his studio to the Midway Plaisance in 1906 and began teaching at the University of Chicago. He became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1909, but by his later career the popularity of his highly traditional Beaux–Arts style had begun to decline. Nevertheless, he remained an active artist and a visionary, even utopian, promoter of the arts—a self–described “art missionary”—throughout his lifetime. He was survived by his wife, Ada Bartlett Taft. In recent years, Taft’s life and work have been the subject of renewed scholarly interest and attention.
Written by Daniel Vincent Cioffi, AB in Art History, 2015