University Museums

Title: The Gentle Doctor
Name: Bronze Casting
Date: 1976
Medium: Cast bronze
Dimensions: 80 x 24 1/2 x 23 in. (203.2 x 62.2 x 58.4 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Funded by Dr. and Mrs. J.E. Salsbury for the College of Veterinary Medicine. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Veterinary Medicine, South courtyard, entrance
Object Number: U88.70
More Information
This sculpture has been recognized by veterinary schools throughout the world as an international symbol of veterinary medicine. The sculpture depicts a veterinarian who is holding a sick or sounded puppy. At the doctor's feet is the mother of the puppy, looking upward with concern. The sculpture represents the strong bond between humans and animals and stands almost seven feet tall. The original terra cotta sculpture sustained weather damage over time and was recast in bronze. The original now stands on the main floor of the Scheman Building and the reproduction in bronze is located at the Veterinary Medicine Building.

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.