Title: George Washington Carver
Dimensions: 75 x 26 1/2 x 24 in. (190.5 x 67.3 x 61 cm)
Credit Line: Commissioned by University Museums. An Iowa Art State Buildings Project for the Seed Science Center with major support from the Council of Agricultural Development. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Iowa State University, Seed Science
In the 1940s, Christian Petersen sculpted a plaster figure of George Washington Carver. He sculpted Carver as an older man, contemplating a single peanut, which he is holding in his large hands. The sculptor's intentions were to emphasize Carver's vision for the future of agriculture and his passion for science, farmers and students. Petersen was financially unable to cast this sculpture in bronze as he originally intended, so he painted the work of art to resemble bronze. The plaster sculpture was originally exhibited in Carver Hall's first floor lobby, but in 1998 donors John and Linda Dasher funded the bronze casting of the sculpture. This was to celebrate Iowa State University's All-University George Washington Carver Celebration in 1999. The bronze casting is now located in the courtyard between Carver Hall and Beardshear Hall.
Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961) emigrated from Denmark. As a young man, Petersen went to the Newark Technical School to study die cutting. In 1920, he became the apprentice of Boston artist Henry Hudson Kiston, who trained Petersen in a narrative and symbolic sculptural style, often used for historic monuments. In the aftermath of World War I, demand for such specialized styles were high. In 1928, Petersen moved to the Midwest with the regionalist notion that it was becoming the cultural center of the United States. He settled in Chicago, with the intent of pursuing sculptural commissions full-time. The crippling blow of the Great Depression necessitated his return to commercial die cutting. By the 1940s, Petersen had moved again, this time to Iowa State University at the request of Grant Wood. There, Petersen began his legendary 21-year tenure as one of the University's most revered professors and the nation's first permanent artist-in-residence. In 1955, Petersen retired, but left a legacy of signature sculptures; the nucleus of Iowa State's expansive public art collection.