The Evansville Coliseum Statues
Evansville, Indiana

Evansville Coliseum Statues

Plaster Cast of Evansville Coliseum Statues

This photo shows a plaster cast of one of the statues in his studio. Photo courtesy of Willard Library.

The following article describe the construction of the Coliseum statues.

The Evansville Courier, January 23, 1916

Article was typed as it was worded in the newspaper.

Sculptor at Work in Evansville on Groups of Statuary to Adorn the Front of the Coliseum

Ideas of the Artist Being Moulded in Clay--Later They Will Be Enlarged and Cast Into Heroic Bronze

Spirit of 1861 and 1916 Will Be Depicted Young Designer Is a Rockport Boy Who Has Gained Laurel in Art World

by Rose Rudin

In drawing back the curtain on this story, perhaps, it is meet and fit to say dramatically, Ladies and Gentlemen, with your kind permission let me introduce you to an entirely new and unheard of a first-of-its-kind sensation in our city--A real, live sculptor at work on "Evansville Made" statuary!

Kindly bow, Ladies and Gentlemen, and then in the words of the by-gone commencement exhorter, "Go with me" to his studio in the Furniture building and with your own hands feel the prints and with your own eyes watch him as he moulds the formless clay in the deathless bronze figures that are to adorn the main entrance of the memorial coliseum.

A sculptor hard at it is George Honig, formerly of Rockport, to whom the contract of making the two memorial bronze figures that are to stand, seventy-five feet apart, at the bases of the two terminal pillars of the Parthenon-like portico of the coliseum, was recently awarded by the board of directors. Acting on this board are Benjamin Bosse, president; Charles P. Beard, secretary; Henry Hartig, treasurer; C. C. Schreeder, R. A. Andres and two commissioners, Henry Helfrich and John W. Wimberg.

Opens Studio Here

In connection with the coliseum work, Mr. Honig has just opened his own permanent studio filled with oil paintings and various sketches, adjoining those of the coliseum architect Clifford Shopbell. He comes to Evansville after six years of patient study at the National Academy of Design in New York city. Most of his work has been under the supervision or in collaboration with the celebrated sculptor, H. A. MacNeil, who is best known in Evansville by his favorite work, "The Sun Vow." Our coliseum sculptor assisted MacNeil in several of his larger works, such as the George Washington Statue that stands at the entrance of the Washington arch, Fifth avenue, New York, and the Lincoln monument to be erected at Springfield, Ill. How successful all those efforts have been is testified by the silver and bronze medals which were awarded Mr. Honig for his superior results.

Bronze Figures the Memorial Touches

"It is the most delicate and artistic piece of work on the whole structure," remarked Clifford Shopbell, coliseum architect, as he handled the drawings of his favorite building with almost affectionate pride. He has labored more diligently on the coliseum plans than on any of his many other Evansville public buildings and the effect of Grecian simplicity of the whole structure to be completed by next July will tell the tale of hours of careful study. "Mr. Honig's figures will be the only bronze statuary in the city, I know of, save one bust out in Oak Hill cemetery," the architect concluded with pride plainly discernible in his tone.

How the Figures Will Look

"The delicate touch--the memorial touch; you see the coliseum is erected in honor of the sailors and soldiers of Vanderburg county and these statues tell that story." Can't you hear the loyal Evansville folk say as in future years they'll point to the young sculptor's first "Evansville-made" statuary? They'll ponder and study the details of the figures with a tender minuteness, as if it were a treasured personal possession.

As one mounts the broad stone steps he will be attracted first to the life-size figures described as The Spirit of 1861." Guarding and Protecting the Flag." A striking figure of Victory with the flag swirling round the head and body represents the army and navy's supreme effort in protecting the union that was threatened in 1860. It is a glowing, valiant and appealing figure--this Valor.

The daring champion is ably supported. To the left a soldier in infantry uniform adds strength and courage. To the right the rising figure of a cavalryman, with hand grasping sword stands in the act of defending his companions. Suggestive of artillery is the cannon ball and wheel partially shown. Thus the four arms of military service are represented--infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy.

Figure of Peace

In striking contrast to the tense, dynamic, war like group will be the peace group on the opposite side. "The Spirit of 1916" it is called. And one must walk the distance of seventy-five feet, winding in and out between the six massive (five feet in diameter) pillars to study its beauty.

Seated comfortably and calmly, as if telling each other briny yearns are two veterans of the G. A. R. Towering behind them is the figure of Gloria, symbolic of Vanderburg county. Her arms filled with garlands and laurel wreaths, she brings everlasting glory to the men of the "pocket" district who fought for their country.

The groups will be life size and the figures of Valor and Gloria seven feet high making the group inclusive of base about eight feet high. Resting on seven and one half foot pedestals the full groups will rise fifteen feet above the gray stone steps.

Intensely patriotic is the whole original conception of the artist, Mr. Honig. The designs were accepted at once by the architect and coliseum commissioners and they will be completed as soon as possible, though they will not be ready for the building until long after the house warming.

The Sculptor at Work

A year's time will be necessary before the figures are completed, in which time they will live four lives, passing through four successive stages.

At present, in the infant stage, they are but eight inches high. These are clay plastolene models called sketches. They constitute the preliminary designs, conceived, finished and accepted within three weeks. The next stage will be a second study in plastolene. This will be about three feet high. Living models will be used to develop the sketches. Charles Becker of this city will pose for the figure of Valor. Other local people will be posed for the five remaining figures.

This much will be done in the local studio at the Furniture building. With the second stage completed, Mr. Honig goes to Chicago to be near foundries where the statutes are cast in bronze. A third model in clay, full size, about eight feet in height, is made. From this a plaster of Paris mold is taken. Using the plaster of Paris as a second more permanent mould, the final casting in bronze completes this interesting process.

And when the great day of their unveiling rolls round, one year hence, I hope still to be in town. For I should love to hear the dedication speech. What a world of material, historic and patriotic, with national and local coloring, these bronze groups of Mr. Honig's will afford the eloquent orator--"The spirit of 1861, the Spirit of 1916," and EVANSVILLE MADE.

The following photos were taken in 2003.

Evansville Coliseum Statues

The left statue group.

Evansville Coliseum Statues

Close-up of the left statue group.

Evansville Coliseum Statues

Close-up of George Honig's name.

Evansville Coliseum Statues

The right statue group.

Evansville Coliseum Statues

Close-up of the right statue group.

Evansville Coliseum Statues

Side view of the right statue group.

Evansville Coliseum Statues

Close-up of George Honig's name.

This advertisement appeared in The Evansville Courier, Coliseum Section, April 8, 1917.

The Bronze Statuary
Designed and Made By
George H. Honig
Studio, 704 Furniture Building
Sculptor, Portrain Painter, Landscape Painter
and Cover Page Designing
Be Sure and Get An Illustrated Souvenir
of Evansville This Week
Just the thing to mail to friends or relatives, or for your own library.
This little book of sketchings, giving the artistic side of our city, will be on
sale at the COLISEUM all this week and the following dealters:
Smith and Butterfield; Geupel Bros. Bookstore and Newstand;
The Vanity Fair, formerly The Party Shop

Postcard of Evansville Coliseum Statues

Postcard image courtesy of Don Rebel.