Last year I took some pictures of the The Fountain of the Four Season at Iowa State University as they were getting ready to take it down and do some restoration work to the fountain.
Here is a little history of the Fountain of the Four Seasons from the Iowa State Museums website:
According to Dr. Lea Rosson DeLong in her book Christian Petersen, Sculptor (2001), the Fountain was inspired by Petersen’s work in 1936 illustrating a children’s book, Cha-Ki-Shi, with the Meskwaki tribe at the Tama settlement. Petersen “consulted with geneticist-poet friend J.C. Cunningham, who shared that interest.” The professor soon supplied a four-line Osage chant:
Lo, I come to the tender planting
Lo, a tender shoot breaks forth
Lo, I collect the golden harvest
Lo, there is joy in my house.
First created in plaster for consideration by President Friley, these sculptures were sent to the national cornhusking championship in Davenport, where they were met with approval. The four plaster Maiden models can be found in Curtiss Hall.
The central ring of terra cotta surrounding the fountainhead features corn shoots beginning to grow. This connects the chant of Osage harvest to the educational and agricultural heritage of Iowa and Iowa State University through the cultivation of corn as a symbol of the cultivation of an education.
Along with the Maidens and the terra cotta ring, even the design of the spray of water was created by Petersen.
Petersen rarely described his works, but in this case, he explained how the curving jets that spout inward toward the center column of water reflect the shapes of nature, that the sculptures and water together with the poetry of the chant express balance and harmony with nature. -curator Dr. Lea Rosson De Long
I don’t know anything about J.C. Cunningham, but I do always worry when I see somebody referred to a “geneticist” in the 1930s. It was definitely not the golden age of genetics. To say the very least.
I also took some night pictures of the fountain. I will get into the restoration effort of the fountain when I share those pictures.
Here are some daytime pictures of the fountain:
I won’t pretend to be a huge fan of Christian Peterson. There is something about the hands of his sculptures that creep me out. However The Fountain of the Four Season is truly one the treasures of Iowa State University and their public art program. Which is one of the largest campus public art programs in the United States. I will be excited when the fountain “returns”. But it is going to be a minute.