HENRY HERING and JAMES EARLE FRASER. The Michigan Avenue Bridge

In 1920, with thanks due Daniel Burnham and Ed Bennett (although maybe not in that order), Michigan Avenue spanned the Chicago River. The Bridge, was, is, an elegant construction.  A double decked bascule punctuated with four Beaux Arts bridge towers. (More on this in  future posts at Chicago Architecture in the Loop.)  Henry Hering, commissioned by the Benjamin Franklin Ferguson Monument  Fund, sculpted "Defense" and "Regeneration" for the south Bridge Towers. James Earle Fraser, who was funded by William Wrigley, created "Explorers" and Pioneers"  for the North Towers.  Both had trained under Augustus Saint Gaudens, who had been an artistic advisor to the Columbian Exposition of 1893.

No group of sculpture in the City is more difficult to fully appreciate.  The symmetry and architectural impact of the bridge towers relegates these major pieces of sculpture to ornament.  The similarities of composition overshadow their differences.  And their high traffic location almost precludes the "quiet moment" that sculpture takes to understand.                      

Not that I'm not complaining very loudly.  These four pieces are entirely appropriate ornament for what is arguably the most important Bridge on the most important Avenue in the most important City between New York and the West Coast. Still, they each deserve time and care. More to follow.


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