Lorado Taft (1860-1936)

Image of Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time sculpture in Washington Park

Designed 1910
Dedicated 1922

Concrete

Located at the west end of the Midway Plaisance

Artist Profile

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

“Taft [had a] tireless optimism about the future of art and [a] crusading zeal to leave no appropriate site in Chicago and the whole wide midwest untenanted by a monumental statue...”
Bernard Bowron, “Henry Blake Fuller: A Critical Study,” 1948


In Washington Park, at the western edge of the Midway Plaisance, a wavelike procession of figures marches across a stepped pedestal, while from across a pool the towering figure of Time looks dispassionately on. Dedicated in 1922, Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time is one of the central works of the City of Chicago’s public art collection. Taft was first inspired by the opening lines of Henry Austin Dobson’s poem “The Paradox of Time,” which read:

Time goes, you say? Ah, no!
Alas, Time stays, we go;

As early as 1907, the artist indicated plans for a monumental sculpture based on these words, and his project quickly grew to visionary proportions. In 1910, Taft proposed a total redevelopment scheme for the Midway to evoke the bygone grandeur of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (to which, years earlier, he had contributed). Fountain of Time was to be but one feature of a new, magnificent “Midway Beautiful,” a project that would transform the area just south of the University of Chicago and steps away from Taft’s own sculpture workshop, the historic Midway Studios.

Taft won support for his proposal from the Ferguson Fund at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1913. The Fund financed a scale model of Fountain of Time in plaster, with the promise of a full–scale marble version as well as a reciprocal “Fountain of Creation” at the Midway’s east end in Jackson Park. A canal the length of the Midway, traversed by bridges and lined with avenues of commemorative sculptures, was also projected. By World War I, however, the initial public enthusiasm for Taft’s vision had cooled, and progress was halted. Critics began to view the costly proposal as pedantic and anti–modern. In 1920 the Ferguson Fund officially withdrew its support of Midway Beautiful—by way of consolation as much as compromise, it funded a full–scale concrete rendition of Fountain of Time that can be seen today: the only part of Taft’s plan ever realized. The fountain’s present condition and functionality is the result of years of ambitious conservation efforts that concluded in 2007.

 

Written by Daniel Vincent Cioffi, AB in Art History, 2015

 

Related Links

City of Chicago Public Art Program


Archival Materials

Photograph of Taft standing on Fountain of Time

Source: Chicago Daily News, c1920

Photograph of Taft at work on the sculpture in Midway Studios

Source: Chicago Daily News, c1920

Photograph of Taft and his team working on the plaster model

Source: University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-08073r, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Photograph of the plaster model (detail)

Source: University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf2-05161r, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Photograph of the completed Fountain of Time in Washington Park

Source: University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-08110r, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.


Further Reading

Earley, John J. The Concrete of the Architect and Sculptor. Introduction by Lorado Taft. Chicago: Portland Cement Association, 1926.

Taft, Ada Bartlett. Lorado Taft: sculptor and citizen. Greensboro, NC: Mary T. Smith, 1946.

Weller, Allen Stuart. Lorado in Paris: the letters of Lorado Taft, 1880-1885. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1985.


Sources

Garvey, Timothy J. Lorado Taft and the Beautification of Chicago. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988.

Weller, Allen Stuart. Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years. Edited by Robert G. LaFrance and Henry Adams. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.