Donald De Lue
Born Donald H. Quigley in Boston, the artist took the name De Lue in 1918 from the maternal side of his family. At an early age he studied with Bela Pratt at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, but most of his training came from working in the studios of older sculptors. In Boston De Lue spent three years with Richard Recchia, and another three with the Englishman Robert P. Baker. After World War I he spent five years in France, where he worked for several sculptors, including Alfredo Pena.
Returning to the United States, De Lue served for about eleven years as chief assistant to Bryant Baker in New York City. His work first won recognition in 1938 when he was runner-up in a competition for the Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, D.C. This led to several government commissions, the first of which were reliefs for the Philadelphia courthouse, completed in 1940. In the next almost fifty years, De Lue probably executed more monumental commissions than anyone else of his generation. Among his works are Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves for the Omaha Beach Memorial in France and Rocket Thrower for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. He was also an accomplished medalist and a member of the National Sculpture Society.
Donald DeLue: The Leonardo Sculptor
by Muriel J Smith
Published: 16 June 2018
It will be 30 years in August since Donald DeLue died, but there are many in the Bayshore who still remember and respect the soft-spoken, gentle man who lived and created many of his magnificent works at his home and studio at 82 Highland Avenue, Leonardo.
DeLue….he was actually born Donald Harcourt Quigley, but took on a maternal family name when he was 21, was born in Boston and studied there, in New York, Paris, and under many famous sculptors and artists of his day. He had a style and flair all his own, to say nothing of dedication to hard work and energy. In a career that spanned half a century, he created hundreds of statutes, medals and medallions, many of them patriotic, many of them epitomizing the virtues of strength, patriotism, energy, and the American spirit. In an interview he gave in his Leonardo studio in 1975, DeLue said his mission was to “give dignity to the man, not make a hero of DeLue.”
His statue of Thomas Jefferson, all two tons of clay, says it all. Commissioned by the Bicentennial Commission of Jefferson Parish, La. the clay model was created in Leonardo, later to be cast in bronze and set on a Dakota mahogany granite base in the heart of a new plaza in Metairie, La, a lasting tribute to the man who made the Louisiana Purchase a reality. The sculptor said he created the 8 foot, 6-inch-tall statue complete with smile wrinkles on the President’s jaw and furrows in his brow to show both the strength and gentleness of the President.
It’s how he fashioned all the greats he has molded in clay in a studio cluttered with drawings, sketches, piles of books and assorted other items he deemed important to his work.
But the clay model, later to be cast in plaster to create the mold to be plaster filled and cast in bronze in New York before being shipped to Louisiana for formal dedication ceremonies, started long before the sculptor first put pen to paper for his initial ideas. DeLue had already read numerous books about Jefferson to get more insight into his personality, then pored over every drawing and photograph done in the 18th and 19th centuries during the President’s lifetime…he wanted to ensure his dimensions were accurate in creating a statue one and a half times life size….then created the steel frame in which he would wrap the clay. Although he destroyed the model once the plaster cast was made, DeLue always used the clay again for yet another purpose.
The master artist never took count of the number of works he created, nor did he ever remember which was his first. He lived for the next one he would make and always said his last one was his favorite. But they are still testimonies to his great talent throughout the United States and many other countries in such diverse locations as churches, convents, museums, colleges and universities. His Athlete is at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, his Boy Scout Memorial is in Washington, his Dr. Martin Luther King is at Wichita State University in Kansas. A sculpture of Eagles is at the US Court House in Philadelphia, another Washington Kneeling in Prayer is at the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge. A sculpture is at the US Battle Monument in Normandy, France, and several of his works are at Gettysburg National Military Park.
Quest Eternal” is one of De Lue's best known works. Twisted in a dramatic pose, this 27-foot tall male figure reaches toward the sky. The muscular nude brings to mind ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, as well as the work of Renaissance-era artists, who often looked to classical art to inspire their choice of subject matter and style. Here, the sculpture also fits in with the modern urban landscape and parallels the bold verticality of the neighboring Prudential Tower, completed three years before the sculpture's installation. Despite the work's enormous size and weight of five tons, it was cast in one piece at a foundry in Italy. In contrast, many large sculptures are cast in multiple parts and then welded together.
The Rocket Thrower is one of the largest, if not the largest, of all of DeLue’s works. Created for the New York World’s Fair in 1964, it is 45 feet high, cast in bronze, and was one of the earliest concepts of man’s relationship to space and an adventurous spirit. Not selected by the Sculpture Committee to create a statue for the Fair, DeLue went to the Committee and requested he be included. He was, and was given six months to create his masterpiece. He did, completing it in time to be shipped to Italy for casting. He was allocated $105,000 for the statue, which still stands on the grounds of the Worlds’ Fair in Flushing. He envisioned his works lasting thousands of years.
DeLue and his wife Naomi lived in Leonardo even while he still maintained other studios in New York and Italy. He gave one man shows of his work at both Monmouth university and Brookdale Community College, as well as displaying more than two dozen of his sculptures and medallions at Bell Labs in Holmdel. Naomi died in 1982, he died in his sleep in Leonardo six years later, with his last work, The Leper, remaining unfinished. Both Donald and Naomi are buried in old Bridge.
Pickens Museum Opens Exhibit at NOC of “Quest Eternal” by Sculptor Donald De Lue
by Hugh Pickens, Executive Director, Pickens Museum
Ask any Ponca City resident the name of the sculptor who created the Pioneer Woman statue and he or she will probably answer Bryant Baker says Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum. “However Bryant Baker did not create the Pioneer Woman single-handedly. Actually Baker led a team of sculptors who worked on the iconic sculpture that has long been a symbol of our Oklahoma heritage” says Pickens. “And foremost on Baker's team was Donald De Lue, who worked as Bryant Baker's chief assistant from 1923 to 1938 and played a key role in the creation of the Pioneer Woman.”
Now Oklahomans can see work by Donald De Lue for themselves in an exhibition that Pickens Museum has opened at Northern Oklahoma College in the administration building in Tonkawa. Visitors to the Pickens Museum exhibit at NOC can see the maquette for “Quest Eternal” plus ten sketches that De Lue produced with the same theme.
Born Donald H. Quigley in Boston, the artist took the name De Lue in 1918 from the maternal side of his family. At an early age De Lue studied with Bela Pratt at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but most of his training came from working in the studios of older sculptors. De Lue spent three years with Richard Recchia, and another three with the Englishman Robert P. Baker, brother of Bryant Baker with whom De Lue would later be employed for fifteen years. After World War I De Lue worked on a tramp steamer to get to Europe and spent five years in France where he worked for several sculptors, including Alfredo Pena.
Returning to the United States, De Lue worked from 1923 to 1938 as chief assistant to Bryant Baker in New York City. While working for Baker, De Lue had a key role in the creation of the “Pioneer Woman” statue.“Bryant Baker primarily created busts during his career and he was very skilled in throwing a likeness of a client or of a prominent public figure,” says Pickens. “But Baker's strengths did not include musculature and doing full bodies.
According to art historian Donald Roger Howlett, when De Lue went to work as Baker's chief assistant in 1923, he was the perfect addition to the Baker studio. “De Lue's greatest talents lay in the areas where Bryant Baker was weakest,” writes Howlett. “Baker was a highly competent sculptor who had the ability to capture a portrait likeness quickly. His severest critics admitted that while the sculptures might not be artistic, they did look like the subject. Baker had, however, great difficulty modeling the rest of the anatomy. De Lue's greatest strength was anatomy. Whether working from model, memory, or imagination, his muscles would always connect in the right place to the bone.”
As far as the Pioneer Woman was concerned, Baker said that he developed the conception and movement of the monument in an eight- or ten-inch sketch model he made a few hours after he learned about the competition." De Lue then executed the thirty-three-inch competition model for the sculpture in 1927, with Baker supervising and completing the face.
After the commission for the seventeen-foot sculpture on a thirteen-foot stone base was awarded to Baker by E.W. Marland, De Lue set to work in 1928 and 1929 modeling it in Baker's Brooklyn studio, working with Jean La Seure, the enlarger. De Lue later remembered: "One day Bryant decided he would work on it, and did some work. I said, 'Look, Bryant, if I were you I'd get the hell out of here, because you're not helping at all.' He said, 'Thank you very much!' and he went."
“Interesting enough, after Donald De Lue went out on his own in 1938, his career was much more distinguished than Baker's. De Lue went on to become one of the premier American sculptors of the twentieth century,” says Pickens. “Now Oklahomans can see work by Donald De Lue for themselves at our exhibition at NOC.”
De Lue's first solo work won recognition in 1938 when he was runner-up in a competition for the Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, D.C. This led to several government commissions, the first of which were reliefs for the Philadelphia courthouse, completed in 1940. In the next almost fifty years, De Lue executed more monumental commissions than anyone else of his generation. Among his works are Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves for the Omaha Beach Memorial in France and Rocket Thrower for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. De Lue was President of the National Sculpture Society for many years.
In a career that spanned fifty years, De Lue created hundreds of statutes, medals and medallions, many of them patriotic epitomizing the virtues of strength, patriotism, energy, and the American spirit. In an interview he gave in his New Jersey studio in 1975, De Lue said his mission was to “give dignity to the man, not make a hero of De Lue.”
“Quest Eternal” is one of De Lue's best known works. Twisted in a dramatic pose, this 27-foot tall male figure reaches toward the sky. The muscular nude brings to mind ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, as well as the work of Renaissance-era artists, who often looked to classical art to inspire their choice of subject matter and style. Originally installed in front of the Prudential Tower in downtown Boston, the sculpture also fits in with the modern urban landscape and parallels the bold verticality of the neighboring Prudential Tower, completed three years before the sculpture's installation. Despite the work's enormous size and weight of five tons, it was cast in one piece at a foundry in Italy. In contrast, many large sculptures are cast in multiple parts and then welded together.
Another well known sculpture by De Lue was the centerpiece of the New York World Fair in 1964. Rocket Thrower is one of the largest, if not the largest, of all of De Lue’s works. Commissioned by Robert Moses for the World’s Fair, Rocket Thrower is 45 feet high and was one of the earliest concepts of man’s relationship to space and an adventurous spirit. De Lue was given six months to create his masterpiece completing it in time to be shipped to Italy for casting. He was allocated $105,000 for the statue, which still stands on the grounds of the Worlds’ Fair in Flushing Park in NYC. De Lue envisioned his works lasting thousands of years.
“Pickens Museum probably has the most complete collection of work by Donald De Lue in the world,” says Pickens. “I became interested in De Lue about 30 years ago when I learned of his role in creation of the Pioneer Woman. Our Museum now holds over forty of De Lue's sculptures, over 100 of his original sketches, and 135 of De Lue's original sketch books, that we have acquired over the years.”
“We look forward in coming years to making more of De Lue's work available to the public so they can see for themselves the magnificent creations by a world-renowned artist who has a strong connection to Oklahoma through the Pioneer Woman statue.”
Donald De Lue, sculptor
Reprinted with permission from National Sculpture Review, Summer 1967.
In honor of the 51st anniversary of the dedication of the Washington at Prayer Statue on the campus of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, we offer this 1967 feature story on the sculptor, Donald De Lue.
By Margaret French Cresson
“But we advertised for a man to cut marble, not a boy.”
Thus did the John Evans Marble Company of Boston turn down 12-year-old Donald De Lue’s request for a job. He had been already rejected by the Boston Museum School as being too young. But when Bela Pratt, the Boston sculptor, saw his drawings, he was so impressed that he gave the lad a scholarship, enabling him to study in the studio of Richard Recchia. He was a student of these two men in the old St. Botolph Studios for four years, until he was old enough to enter the Museum School.
At this time Robert Baker, the English sculptor, came to Boston and a short time later, again in the St. Botolph Studios, he took young De Lue on as assistant. It was wonderful training, this opportunity to work on big statues, to become familiar with the techniques and imaginative qualities of sculpture and to apply his already acquired proficiency and skill.
Then followed almost five years in Paris, again working as assistant to eminent and established sculptors, among them the talented Italian artist, Alfredo Pina, who was putting up huge nudes in French clay to be carved in beautiful French limestone. There he learned not to be afraid to make an alteration, when it was needed, in a huge clay model.
With this most thorough equipment, he returned to this country, where he worked for Bryant Baer, the brother of his former employer. At this time, he made six large granite panels for the Philadelphia Court House. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship and received an important commission from architect Paul Cret, the marble “Triton” in the gardens of the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia. Life was going forward, full of promise when the Second World War materialized, another “important commission” from Paul Cret fell through and the leaner years began, as they did for all creative artists. Finally the tide turned, commissions of consequence began to come in. The kind of thing he had always longed to do, big things, on a monumental scale.
De Lue was fortunate in the kind of work that came to him, just what he wanted. If he had ordered it himself, it couldn’t have been better.
The commissions were now coming in more frequently; a humorous figure, “The Alchemist,” for the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania; a portrait statue of Edward Crump, with a large exedra, for Memphis, Tenn.; the Harvey Firestone Memorial in Akron, Ohio, with one of the largest sculptured exedras in the world; figures of St. Michael and a Knight Crusader, carved in wood for the Chapels at West Point and Arlington, during World War II; 14 very beautiful Stations of the Cross, in marble, for the Loyola Jesuit Seminary at Shrub Oak, N.Y.; and for another important Catholic Chapel at Willowdale, Toronto, 14 more Stations of the Cross carved in Portuguese rose marble. A bronze garden figure, “Icarus,” for Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. A 10-foot bronze portrait statue of George Washington as President of his Country and Master Mason, was put up in New Orleans and there are replicas in Alexandria; Wallingford, Conn.; Detroit; and also Flushing Meadow, N.Y., dedicated this June 3, 1967, standing near “The Rocket Thrower.”
His tribute to the Boy Scouts of America, a 12-foot group, above an 80-foot reflecting pool, was unveiled in the President’s Park, between the White House and the Washington Monument, in 1964; his Confederate Memorial at Gettysburg, one of our great national shrines, was dedicated even more recently. The Chapel at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Va., has a central section 14-feet-high portraying the Hand of God with Man, as well as two side figures.
Among the most inspired of his monumental ideal figures, is that soaring 22-foot bronze youth for the U.S. Military Cemetery, the Battle Monument at Omaha Beach at St. Laurent, the famous Normandy beach-head where our men made their first thrust into France.
At the New York World’s Fair, stood one of the largest bronze figures in the world, the “Rocket Thrower,” 45-feet high, located on the Main Mall in the Court of the Astronauts; to Donald De Lue it represented the “spiritual concept of man’s relationship to space and his venturesome spirit backed up by all the powers of his intelligence for the exploration of a new dimension.” This statue was commissioned by the World’s Fair Corporation, and is permanently located on Flushing Meadows. The figure was also reproduced on the U.S. World’s Fair stamp.
This year De Lue is having four important works dedicated. In June, the previously mentioned “George Washington” on the site of the Masonic Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Another 15-foot figure of General Washington kneeling in prayer on the snows of Valley Forge, to be unveiled in September. And only this month a bronze portrait plaque of Edward H. Harriman, dedicated in Salt Lake City, Utah.
What perhaps comes closer to the sculptor’s heart, on account of its subject and its location, is the 27-foot bronze for the Main Plaza of the magnificent new Prudential Center in Boston, dedicated on April 19. This heroic-size male figure, rising up before the Center, compliments the ascending aspiration of the tower itself, and seems to be a symbol of man’s search for the eternal and lasting values, as against the transient and temporal confusions of the day. That De Lue was selected to carry through this work, in the face of considerable pressure to put something very modern in front of this great group of buildings on this most important site, the showpiece of the new Boston, is a tribute to the kind of contemporary, traditional sculpture that he creates so triumphantly.
The fact of its being on the site of the John Evans Marble works where De Lue first applied for work, and near the St. Botol ph Studios, where he studied with three established artists, holds a personal, nostalgic meaning for Donald De Lue and seems to point out that law of attraction that dominates so many of us when the first efforts of our youth finally come full circle.
De Lue, of course, is a Fellow and Past President of the National Sculpture Society; a National Academician; member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters; Chairman of the Art Committee of the Hall of Fame, and other organizations. His list of awards is staggering: The Gold Medal of the Architectural League; two Gold Medals awarded by the National Sculpture Society, the latest one from the Society’s Exhibition at Lever House in 1966; the Allied Artists of America; the American Artists Professional League. Two Henry Hering Memorial Medals were given him: one for monumental sculpture, the Omaha Beach Battle Monument; and the other for religious sculpture, his Stations of the Cross at Loyola Jesuit Seminary. Just this April, his work carried off the Samuel F. B. Morse Medal at the National Academy of Design, and the Herbert Adams Memorial Medal awarded by the National Sculpture Society for outstanding achievement in American sculpture.
The major sites for De Lue’s works have been most important in honoring him; three National Shrines; Omaha Beach, Gettysburg and Valley Forge. Also three other sites of great prominence, the New York World’s Fair, the President’s Park – the Elipse, and that modern complex of buildings, the Prudential Center in Boston.
The chief outstanding characteristics of De Lue’s sculpture are, not only its monumental size, but its monumental quality. Always having familiarized himself with the great works of the Golden Age of Greece and of the Renaissance, he likes to believe that he is working in that tradition and that it can be just as fresh and inspired and creative today as it ever was. In his work there is no small thinking. He believes that “this great tradition will endure long after the cheap welding and used plumbing that is called art today, has returned to its native nothingness.”
De Lue’s feeling is that man’s interest has always been in Man, and always will be, and that the present trend to debase the finer aspects of man’s soul is only a passing deviation, and will ultimately swing back in line again, to help us build a better tomorrow. Mr. De Lue, perhaps more than any sculptor working today, is helping us to build that future.
- "Pickens Museum Opens New Exhibit at NOC" (Article in Ponca City Now) March 30, 2021
- Pickens Museum Opens Exhibit of Sculpture by Donald De Lue at NOC March 24, 2021
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- Pickens Museum puts Monumental Sculpture on Display in Ponca City
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Articles about Pickens Museum
- Ponca City Monthly publishes story about Pickens Learning Center at NOC
- Pickens Learning Commons Opens at NOC Tonkawa
- Pickens Museum Acquires "War Club" by Yatika Starr Fields January 20, 2022
- Pickens Museum/NOC Mural Dedication Set for June 16th
- Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum May 12, 2021
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- Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp (Counting Coup) by John Free March 29, 2021
- Pickens Museum Displays Route 66 Murals by Robert Hardee March 29, 2021
- Pickens Museum Opens Exhibit of Sculpture by Donald De Lue at NOC March 24, 2021
- Pickens Museum partners with NOC February 23, 2021
- Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman February 21, 2020
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Faith Ringgold February 21, 2020
- Exhibition: "Winter in New York" January 22, 2020
- The Turquoise Guitar by Jolene Bird November 26, 2018
- World's Largest Naja August 29, 2018
- A 1949 Hudson Limousine August 29, 2018
- Meet the Museum Design Team May 21, 2018
- A Ponca City Mystery April 5, 2018
- Tonya Rafael Visits Ponca City February 2018
2015 and before
- Sculptor Bryant Baker's Lost Masterpiece November 3, 2015
- Pioneer Woman Models Come Home February 26, 2010
- Pioneer Woman Models Should Return to Ponca City July 13, 2007
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