Credit Line: Casting funded by Don Jordahl. Comissioned for the ISU Alumni Association. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Commissioned along with "The Cornhusker" for the lobby of the Hotel Sheldon Munn in Ames, Iowa, "4-H Calf" is one of the most open forms that Christian Peterson ever produced. Its broad triangular shape and expressive physical characteristics give the work a liberated anecdotal quality. The sculpture most likely was inspired by scenes at the Iowa State Fair, where Petersen occasionally presented sculpting demonstrations. Obviously regional in subject, "4- H Calf" is one of the most compelling indicators that Petersen was one of few three-dimensional artists who embraced the regionalist movement. The 4-H Calf was inspired by, and is a tribute to, Iowa’s youth who learn and labor on farms. Here, an adolescent farm boy, is studiously positioning his calf for judging at the Fair. Norma "Duffy" Lyon continued the tradition of sculptural demonstrations at the Iowa State Fair, and was famous for her butter cows. Mrs. Lyon was a student of Christian Petersen. This sculpture was cast posthumously in bronze in 2003 from the 1941 original plaster model.
Christian Petersen's (Danish-American, 1885-1961) career advanced during a transitional stage in American sculpture when styles moved from heroic to realistic. He emigrated to America from Denmark with his family in 1894. After attending several different art schools, beginning a die-cutting career, and receiving some sculpture commissions, Petersen moved to the Midwest. There he was invited to join the Iowa Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) under the direction of Grant Wood in Iowa City. In 1934, Iowa State President Raymond Hughes offered Petersen a one-semester residency to create the fountain and bas-reliefs in the Dairy Industry Building (now Food Science) courtyard. One semester turned into 21 years, and from 1934-1955 Petersen served as Iowa State's sculptor-in-residence. At the time, he was the only sculptor-in-residence at any college or university in the United States, for which he earned $25 per week. Petersen created numerous works of art, including twelve major public art sculptures,
which can be viewed throughout the Iowa State University campus.