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Avard Tennyson Fairbanks (March 2, 1897 – January 1, 1987) was a prolific 20th-century American sculptor. Three of his sculptures are in the United States Capitol, two of them in National Statuary Hall and one in a corridor [1]; 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 included the Winged Mermaid of the Plymouth and a Griffin for the Hudson automobiles.

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

Fairbanks studied in at the Art Students League of New York beginning at age 13, and at age 17 at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in the atelier of Jean Antoine Injalbert.[3] He was appointed Professor of Art at the University of Oregon and taught sculpture from 1920 to 1928. In 1924 he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. After returning from studying fine art in Italy on a Guggenheim Fellowship, in 1929, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Washington.[4] He was appointed Professor of Fine Art at the University of Michigan in 1930 and taught sculpture there until 1948. During this time he studied and earned an MA and a PhD degree in Anatomy from the University of Michigan.[5] He was appointed Dean and Professor of Fine Art at the College of Fine Arts at The University of Utah, 1948 to 1965. He then taught sculpture for two years at the University of North Dakota.



His father was John B. Fairbanks, who was an artist that had studied in Paris art academies. He was also an art professor at Brigham Young Academy. His mother, Lilly Annetta Huish, died about a year after he was born. She was a cousin of Orson Pratt Huish.

Avard's brother J. Leo Fairbanks was also an artist, that had studied both painting and sculpture in the Paris art academies. He encouraged the teen-aged Avard to start creating sculpture.[5] . Avard spent time in New York City in 1912 with J. Leo.

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

J. Leo served as Supervisor of Art in the Salt Lake City Schools until he was appointed Professor of Art, and Chairman of the Art Department, of Oregon State University at Corvallis, Oregon.

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 in that city.[4]

Among Fairbanks' children is Jonathan Leo Fairbanks, who was curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the early 1990s.[6] His second eldest son, Eugene F. Fairbanks, compiled 10 books using archival material to illustrate his father's sculpture career.

Fairbanks also briefly served as a foster parent to Jack Henry Abbott as detailed in Abbott's second book, My Return.[citation needed] However, the Fairbanks family disputes this, as no one from that era remembers Abbott.


From 1926-1928 Fairbanks lived in Italy, along with his wife and four sons, working under a Gugenheim Fellowship. He resided in both Florence and Rome during this period of time. He created a work for Arciconfraternita della Misericordia during this time.[7]


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

In 1918, Avard worked with his brother J. Leo Fairbanks on friezes for the Laie Hawaii Temple. It was during this time that he married Beatrice Maude Fox in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was a native of Salt Lake City whom he had met in Utah and convinced to come join him in Hawaii so they could marry. This would not be Fairbanks' last connection with temples. The statues of the Angel Moroni on the Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland,[8] the Jordan River Utah Temple, Seattle Washington Temple and the São Paulo Brazil Temple are all Fairbanks' work.[citation needed]

Three Witnesses Monument, by Avard Fairbanks.

Many of the sculptures on Temple Square in Salt Lake City are by Fairbanks, including the Three Witnesses Monument.[9]

For a time in the 1920s Fairbanks was a member of the faculty of the University of Oregon.[10] It was while here that he made 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.[11] Fairbanks later became a professor at the University of Utah where part of his conservative philosophy was that "modern abstraction was part of an international communist conspiracy."[12][13]

He created a sculpture of the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood for the Mormon Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair.[14]

Although most of his later work was free-standing sculptures, Fairbanks did return to the frieze when he made some for the Harold B. Lee Library on Brigham Young University campus.[3]

Fairbanks made a statue of Lycurgus that led to his being knighted by King Paul of Greece. He also did multiple statues of Abraham Lincoln (including The Chicago Lincoln) and George Washington.[3]

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

He created the Pegasus sculpture in the northeast garden at the Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills, Michigan.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Viles, Philip H. Jr., National Statuary Hall: Guidebook for a Walking Tour, Published by Philip H. Viles, Tulsa OK, 1997
  2. ^ Avard T. Fairbanks, designer of the Dodge Ram symbol and the Plymouth Flying Lady hood ornaments
  3. ^ a b c d Garr et al., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, p. 355[full citation needed]
  4. ^ a b Church News, September 17, 1994[full citation needed]
  5. ^ a b The Life of Avard T. Fairbanks
  6. ^ Church News, March 6, 1993[full citation needed]
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Goode, James M., The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C.: A Comprehensive Historical Guide, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1974 p. 421
  9. ^ Church News, April 4, 1992[full citation needed]
  10. ^ Greenthal, Kozol, Rameirez & Fairbanks, American Figurative Sculpture in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1986
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ 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

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