University Museums

Title: Library Boy and Girl
Name: Sculptures
Date: 1944
Medium: Bedford limestone
Dimensions: Library Boy: 84 x 26 x 26 in. (213.4 x 66 x 66 cm) Library Girl: 84 x 23 1/2 x 24 in. (213.4 x 59.7 x 61 cm)
Marks: None
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Commissioned by Iowa State College. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Conserved with funds from Pilar Garcia.
Location: Iowa State University, Parks Library, Lobby/original building
Object Number: U88.67ab
More Information
In 1944 Christian Petersen created the larger-than-life sculptures for two pedestals flanking the stairs of the east lobby in the original Iowa State Library. The Library Boy and Girl are formidable images that embody strength and youth. Petersen chose to make his figures sturdy midwestern students, like the men and women he taught in his art classes or met at campus activities.

The Library Boy and Girl were Petersen's tribute to the student community and memorials to learning. By the time these were created, many who had been college students were now serving their country in World War II. The artist felt the sculptures symbolized young Americans personifying the world's hope for peace and freedom.

Petersen also included an element of truthful humor, revealing another element of campus life. The figures, under the pretext of studying, are actually admiring each other. The young woman, with perfect posture, sits holding her text on her knees, while slightly tilting her head to glance at the young man. He appears worrisome and looks as though he has been nervously jiggling his foot while stealing a glance at the girl. Her confidence and his anxiety reflect campus conditions of the 1940s, when the ratio of men to women was ten to one, creating very poor odds for a male admirer trying to capture a female student's attention.