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Avard Tennyson Fairbanks (March 2, 1897 – January 1, 1987) was a 20th-century American sculptor. Over his eighty-year career, he sculpted over 100 public monuments and hundreds of artworks.[1] Fairbanks is known for his religious-themed commissions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) including the Three Witnesses, Tragedy of Winter Quarters, and several Angel Moroni sculptures on LDS temple spires.[2] Additionally, Fairbanks sculpted over a dozen Abraham Lincoln-themed sculptures and busts among which the most well-known reside in the U.S. Supreme Court Building and Ford's Theatre Museum.[3]

Avard Fairbanks
Photo of Fairbanks ca 1914
Fairbanks (ca. 1914)
Avard Tennyson Fairbanks

(1897-03-02)March 2, 1897
DiedJanuary 1, 1987(1987-01-01) (aged 89)
Resting placeLarkin Sunset Lawn Cemetery
40°44′28″N 111°49′23″W / 40.741°N 111.823°W / 40.741; -111.823 (Larkin Sunset Lawn Cemetery)
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Spouse(s)Beatrice M. Fox
Parent(s)John B. Fairbanks
Lillie A. Huish

From a young age, Fairbanks was a talented artist. At 13 years old, he attended the Art Students League of New York on scholarship and his work was displayed at the National Academy of Design a year later. In 1913, he studied abroad in Paris at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts where he was the youngest student admitted to the French salons. He taught sculpture at several universities and attended medical school at the University of Michigan where he earned a doctorate in anatomical studies in order to better represent the human body in his art.


Early life and educationEdit

Avard Tennyson Fairbanks was born on March 2, 1897 in Provo, Utah.[2][4] He was the last and eleventh child of the artist John Fairbanks and Lilly Annetta Huish.[5] Fairbanks was introduced to art by his father and brother J. Leo Fairbanks. His first piece of art was a small, clay rabbit that won first prize in the 1909 Utah State Fair.[2] However, after the judge learned of Fairbanks's young age, he revoked the prize.[6]:1 Fairbanks joined his father in New York City to copy art pieces at the Metropolitan Museum where he was reluctantly received by the curators due to his inexperience. However, he showed great skill and was called a "young Michelangelo" by the New York Herald, which led to other commissions for Fairbanks such as animal models for the Bronx Zoological Gardens.[6]:1 There, he was instructed by Anna Hyatt Huntington and Charles R. Knight.[6]:2

J. Leo Fairbanks and brother Avard T. Fairbanks, 1912 in New York City, while Avard was studying art

He attended the Art Students League of New York on scholarship at age 13, instructed by James Earle Fraser.[7][2] By the age of 14, his art was displayed at the National Academy of Design.[6]:2 He promptly returned to Utah after 18 months studying in New York, to prepare to study art abroad.[2] Fairbanks and his father tried to obtain as many commissions as possible to pay for his study abroad.[6]:2 Among these commissions was a lion he sculpted out of butter for the Utah State Fair, channeling the butter sculpture fable of Antonio Canova.[2][8]:145 This sculpture attracted a large audience and was well received.[6]:2

In 1913, Fairbanks studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, instructed by Jean Antoine Injalbert.[6]:2 Additionally, he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, the Académie Colarossi, and the École Moderne.[6]:2 He became the youngest student admitted to the French Salon; however, his studies were cut short due to World War I.[7][2] Fairbanks and his father escaped Europe on the last train out of Paris and the last spots available on the boat Ansonia leaving Liverpool, returning to New York with only fifteen cents between the two of them.[6]:2


After returning from Paris, Avard Fairbanks continued his artistry in Utah, focusing on clay modeling while completing high school.[9][2] Some of Fairbanks's pieces were displayed in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in the Palace of Fine Arts.[6]:2 In 1915, he received his first major commission sculpting statues and an elaborate frieze on the Laie Hawaii Temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his brother J. Leo.[9][2] Fairbanks's romantic interest Beatrice Maude Fox, from Taylorsville, Utah, joined him in Hawaii.[6]:2 They married on June 25, 1918 in Honolulu, Hawaii.[2][10] After the project was finished in 1918, Fairbanks and Fox returned to Utah and Fairbanks enrolled in the University of Utah.[2] Due to his extensive artistic training, he took other academic courses and did not complete course study in art.[6]:2

In 1920, he became an assistant professor of art at the University of Oregon, teaching sculpture.[6]:3[11] Fairbanks took a sabbatical to study at Yale University, earning a Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree and returned to instruct at University of Oregon.[6]:3 Fairbanks was offered a Guggenheim Fellowship to study art in Europe. Bringing his wife and four children along, he studied in England, France, and Italy; however, he spent most of his time in Florence, Italy.[6]:3 Fairbanks studied underneath Dante Sodini. He created work for Arciconfraternita della Misericordia during this time as well as sculptures in the theme of spring and motherhood.[12][6]:3 When Fairbanks returned in 1928, he taught at The Art Institute of Seattle.[6]:3 In 1929, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Washington where he would construct the 91st Division Monument.[4][6]:3 In 1933, Fairbanks, joined by his father and brother, created the Mormon Display for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Fairbanks sculpted, his brother made stained glass, and his father painted.[8]:148–149 Fairbanks and his family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where he attended medical school, earning an MA and a Ph.D. degree in Anatomy in 1933 and 1936 respectively from the University of Michigan.[6]:3 He did this in order to better and more accurately represent the human body in his work.[8]:89 He began to use anatomical techniques in his subsequent artworks.[6]:3 He was appointed professor of sculpture at the University of Michigan in 1930 and taught sculpture there until 1948.[13] While Fairbanks was living in Ann Arbor, he served for a time as the president of the branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there.[2]

In 1947, Fairbanks created the Fine Arts Department at the University of Utah.[9][6]:4 He was appointed Dean and Professor of Fine Art at the College of Fine Arts at The University of Utah, 1948 to 1955. He retired as dean in 1955, but continued teaching at the University of Utah for 10 years.[14] At the University of Utah his conservative philosophy was that "modern abstraction was part of an international communist conspiracy."[15][16] In 1965, he became a resident sculptor, fine arts consultant, and lecturer at the University of North Dakota.[6]:7 After working at the University of North Dakota, Fairbanks retired, spending the rest of his life creating commissioned works.[3] Fairbanks died in Salt Lake City on January 1, 1987.[10]



Three Witnesses Monument, by Avard Fairbanks.

Avard Fairbanks sculpted the statues of the Angel Moroni on the Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, the Denver Colorado Temple, the Jordan River Utah Temple, the Mexico City, Mexico Temple, Seattle Washington Temple and the São Paulo Brazil Temple.[17][7][18] Many of the sculptures on Temple Square in Salt Lake City are by Fairbanks, including the Three Witnesses Monument.[19] Fairbanks also sculpted the "Tragedy of Winter Quarters" at the Winter Quarters Historical Site.[20][21] This project was particularly meaningful to him because his ancestors suffered in Winter Quarters when it was an encampment.[8]:39 Fairbanks created a monument at the Priesthood Restoration Site in Oakland Township, Pennsylvania of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.[22] He created a sculpture of the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood for the Mormon Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair.[23] Although most of his later work was free-standing sculptures, Fairbanks did create several friezes for the Harold B. Lee Library on Brigham Young University campus.[7]


In the 1920s Avard Fairbanks sculpted the St. Anthony's Doughboy which resides in Keefer Park in Idaho.[24] While Fairbanks was a member of the faculty of the University of Oregon,[25] he created his Oregon Trail sculpture. Around 1925–26, he designed several bas relief panels, cast in bronze, for large doors of the United States National Bank Building in Portland. The door's panels represent ideals of American life such as "Knowledge and Service", "Domestic Welfare", and "Progress through Direction".[26]

Two of several bronze-relief panels Fairbanks designed for the doors of the United States National Bank Building, in Portland, Oregon

Fairbanks made a statue of Lycurgus and was consequently knighted by King Paul of Greece.[9][27] Other monuments he created include the Pony Express, Pioneer family (at the Bismark State Capitol), Daniel Jackling (at the Utah State Capitol), and Prime Minister of Canada McKenzie King (at Ottawa Parliament buildings).[7] He also did multiple statues of Abraham Lincoln at Ford Theater and the U.S. Supreme Court (including The Chicago Lincoln) and The Resolute Lincoln at Lincoln's New Salem.[28][7] Additionally, he designed and sculpted a George Washington statue at the Washington State Capitol Building.[7] Other prominent figures he sculpted included John Burke, Esther Morris, and Marcus Whitman which resides in the National Capitol Building.[7] He created the Pegasus sculpture in the northeast garden at the Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills, Michigan.[29] He also created an Ezra Meeker bust for the University of Oregon and a tabernacle door for the Altar of St. Mary's Cathedral in Eugene, Oregon.[30] Additionally, Fairbanks constructed a 200-pound bronze medallion to commemorate the Oregon Trail.[31]

A view of Meadowbrook Hall from the northeast garden with the Pegasus sculpture by Avard Fairbanks

Three of his sculptures are in the United States Capitol, two of them in National Statuary Hall and one in a corridor;[32] seven other statues are placed in Washington, DC. The state capitols in Washington, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, as well as numerous other locations, also have his works. Possibly his most widely distributed artistic contribution was the charging ram symbol of the Dodge automobile.[2] Other radiator ornaments he designed included the Winged Mermaid of the Plymouth and a Griffin for the Hudson automobiles.[33]:38[34]


Avard Fairbanks's father was John B. Fairbanks, an artist who also had studied in Paris art academies[35] and was briefly an art professor at Brigham Young Academy.[36] His mother, Lilly Annetta Huish, died on May 12, 1898, about a year after he was born as a result of an injury related to a fall she had while she was carrying fourteen-month-old Fairbanks.[8]:127 Avard's brother J. Leo Fairbanks was also an artist who had studied both painting and sculpture in the Paris art academies; Fairbanks considered his brother his first instructor and his mentor.[33]:vii

Avard Fairbanks had eight biological sons. Justin served as director of the art department at Eastern Arizona University.[2] Jonathan Leo Fairbanks was the curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the early 1990s.[2] Jonathan served as director of art and architecture for Salt Lake City Schools until he was appointed Professor of Art and Chairman of the Art Department at Oregon State University at Corvallis, Oregon.[37] Elliot was a dean at the College of Eastern Utah. Eugene, Virgil, David, and Grant became physicians.[2] Avard Jr. was a physicist and inventor.[38] His second eldest son, Eugene F. Fairbanks, compiled 10 books using archival material to illustrate his father's sculpture career.[39] According to Abbott's book, My Return, Fairbanks also briefly served as a foster parent to Jack Henry Abbott.[40] In 1956, after completing the Lycurgus in Sparta, Fairbanks and his wife adopted two young Greek sisters.[2]

Awards and honorsEdit

Avard Fairbanks was a member of many organizations and societies, including National Sculpture Society, the Architectural League of New York, the International Institute of Arts and Letters, the Protetore Della Contrada Della Torre da Siena, Italy, and the Circolo Delgi Artisti di Firenzi. He was also an honorary member of the Society of Oregon Artists.[6]:7 Fairbanks was awarded Herbert Adams Memorial Medal by the National Sculpture Society for his contributions to American sculpture.[6]:7 Additionally, Paul of Greece awarded Fairbanks a medal of the Knights of Thermopylae. Fairbanks received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Lincoln College and the Lincoln Diploma of Honor from Lincoln Memorial University.[6]:7 Moreover, he received the Sesquicentennial Commission of the Congress of the United States.[6]:7

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Avard Fairbanks' works exhibited in visitors center". Church News. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. June 24, 1995. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Woolley, Athelia T. (September 1987). "Art to Edify: The Work of Avard T. Fairbanks". Ensign. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Fairbanks, Eugene (Summer 2005). "Sculptural Commemorations of Abraham Lincoln by Avard T. Fairbanks". Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. 26 (2). Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Avard T. Fairbanks". J. Willard Marriott Library. The University of Utah. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  5. ^ Fairbanks, Lorenzo Sayles (1897). Genealogy of the Fairbanks family in America, 1633-1897. Boston: American Printing and Engraving Company. p. 787. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Fairbanks, Eugene F. (1972). A Sculptor's Testimony in Bronze and Stone: The Sacred Sculpture of Avard T. Fairbanks. Salt Lake City, Utah: Publisher's Press.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Garr, Arnold K.; Cannon, Donald Q.; Cowan, Richard O., eds. (2000). "Fairbanks, Avard". Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. Salt Lake City, Utah: Desert Book Company. pp. 355–356. ISBN 1573458228.
  8. ^ a b c d e Cope, Rachel (August 2003). "John B. Fairbanks: The Man Behind the Canvas". BYU Scholars Archive. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Ludlow, Daniel H., ed. (1992). Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. p. 1286. ISBN 0028796055. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  10. ^ a b John Murphy (2007). "Avard T. Fairbanks papers". Prepared for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Provo, UT. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  11. ^ Swanson, Vern g.; Olpin, Robert S.; Poulton, Donna L.; Rogers, Janie L. (2001). Utah Art, Utah Artists: 150 Year Survey. Springville, Utah: Springville Museum of Art. p. 81. ISBN 158685111X. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  12. ^ James A. Toronto, Eric R. Dursteler and Michael W. Homer, Mormons in the Piazza: The Latter-day Saints in Italy (Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Company and Brigham Young University Religious Studies center, 2017), p. 201
  13. ^ "Avard Fairbanks". Utah Division of Arts & Museums. Utah Department of Heritage & Arts. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  14. ^ Capcace, Nancy (2001). The Encyclopedia of Utah. St. Clair Shores, MI: Somerset Publishers. pp. 183–184. ISBN 9780403096091. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  15. ^ Gergts, William, introduction, essays by Vern G. Swanson, Robert S. Olpin, William C. Seifrit, Utah Painting and Sculpture, Gibbs, Smith Publishing. Salt Lake City, 1997p. 143
  16. ^ Fairbanks, Eugene F., A Sculptor's Testimony in Bronze and Stone: Sacred Sculpture by Avard T. Fairbanks, Publishers Press, Salt Lake City, 1972, p. 4
  17. ^ Petersen, Sarah (November 8, 2012). "A historical tour through LDS temple Angel Moroni statues". Deseret News. Deseret News Publishing Company. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  18. ^ Grimes, Stephanie (April 4, 2013). "$80K bronze statue stolen from SLC medical plaza". KSL. KSL Broadcasting. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  19. ^ Dockstader, Julie A. (April 4, 1992). "Mormon values set in stone, bronze". Church News. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  20. ^ Beck, Gwen B. (August 24, 1991). "55-year-old monument being restored". Church News. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  21. ^ Swensen, Jason (April 8, 1999). "LDS Church buys Winter Quarters cemetery". Deseret News. Deseret News Publishing Comapany. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  22. ^ "Priesthood Restoration Site". Historic Sites. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  23. ^ Top, Brent L., "The Miracle of the Mormon Pavilion: The Church at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair" in Porter, Larry C., Milton V. Backman Jr. and Susan Easton Black, ed., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: New York (Provo: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992) p. 245
  24. ^ Smith, Lisa Dayley (December 26, 2017). "Keefer Park's Doughboy to get facelift". Standard Journal. Rexburg Standard Journal. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  25. ^ Greenthal, Kozol, Rameirez & Fairbanks, American Figurative Sculpture in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1986
  26. ^ John M. Tess (December 1985). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form: United States National Bank Building" (PDF). National Park Service. Item Number 7, p. 2. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  27. ^ Wagner, Danielle B. "4 Latter-day Saints Who Have Been Knighted". LDS Living. Deseret Book Company. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  28. ^ Steiner, Mark E. (Fall 2009). "Abraham Lincoln and the Rule of Law Books". Marquette Law Review. 93 (1): 1287. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  29. ^ "Estate Ground". Meadow Brook. Meadow Brook Hall. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  30. ^ "Avard Fairbanks". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  31. ^ Schmitt, Will (June 7, 2016). "Jackson County receives 200-pound Oregon Trail medallion". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  32. ^ Viles, Philip H. Jr., National Statuary Hall: Guidebook for a Walking Tour, Published by Philip H. Viles, Tulsa OK, 1997
  33. ^ a b Fairbanks, Eugene F. (2001). A Sculpture Garden of Fantasy. Bellevue, WA: Elfin Cove Press. ISBN 0944958346. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  34. ^ Alexander, Kay; Day, Michael, eds. (1991). Discipline-Based Art Education: A Curriculum Sampler. Los Angeles, California: The J. Paul Getty Trust. pp. F-40–45, F-53. ISBN 0892361719. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  35. ^ Florence, Jr., Giles H. (October 1988). "Harvesting the Light: The 1890 Paris Art Mission". Ensign. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  36. ^ Warburton, Brian A. "John B. Fairbanks". BYU Library. Brigham Young University. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  37. ^ "J. Leo Fairbanks". J. Willard Marriott Library. The University of Utah. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  38. ^ "Avard Fairbanks Obituary". Deseret News. Deseret News Publishing Company. March 24, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  39. ^ Davis, Norma S. "A Sculptor's Testimony in Bronze and Stone: The Sacred Sculpture of Avard T. Fairbanks Review". BYU Studies Quarterly. Brigham Young University. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  40. ^ Abbott, Jack Henry (1987). My Return. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 186. ISBN 0879753552.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Avard Fairbanks official website created by Eugene Fairbanks which includes lists of major works and locations, a sculpture sales gallery, and a list of books about Fairbanks
An archived tribute website to Fairbanks created by Jefferson Fairbanks which includes descriptions and histories of Fairbanks's major works
Avard Fairbanks's personal papers collection which includes correspondence, lecture notes, addresses, sketches, and drawings
Original manuscript of a Fairbanks unpublished biography by Eugene Fairbanks