Friday, March 18, 2011

A tale of Two Statues (Part Two)


Carl von Linné (1707-1778)

In my last blog I wrote about the Ellsworth Kelly sculpture, Curve XXII, that stands on the northeast corner of Fullerton and Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park.  Kelly’s work sort of makes up for the movement of another statue that sat on the south side of Fullerton for close to 80 years – the monument to the great Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist, Carl von Linné.
Of Linné, who lived from 1707 to 1778, the German writer Johann Wofgang von Goethe wrote, “With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, I know no one among the no longer living who has influenced me more strongly.” 
The statue was erected in time for the celebration surrounding the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.  The New York Times made the announcement of the plan on May 17, 1891 in an article that stated, “A monument to Carolus Linnaeus, the eminent Swedish man of science, will be unveiled here on the one hundred and eighty-fourth anniversary of his birth, May 23 next.  It is placed in Lincoln Park at the foot of Fullerton Avenue.  It has been erected, by voluntary subscription, by his fellow-countrymen now living in Chicago.  It stands upon a heavy granite base.
The Swedish Linnaeus Monument Association was the catalyst that brought the statue to Chicago, and it seems reasonable to assume that the community saw the site just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo as a logical place for Linné’s likeness.  After all, Linné’s Systema Naturae and Species Plantarum began the modern system of naming and classifying living things.
Linné Monument, Stockholm
Fullerton Avenue Linné
The bronze sculpture was created by C. J. Dufverman in Stockholm, where the Otto Meyer Co. cast the monumental work, which was a copy of the Linné monument that stood in Stockholm.  The statue stood – still stands -- 39 feet high.  The complete installation, including the base of Maine granite, soared 111 feet at the foot of Fullerton Avenue.
The statue was originally surrounded with four figures that represented botany, medicine, chemistry and zoology, the diverse fields in which Linné had worked.  The completed work cost approximately $122,000.  [Simon, Andreas.  The Garden City.  Franze Gindele Publsihing Company, 1893]
The statue had a conspicuous enough presence that Frank Norris included it in The Pit, his 1903 epic tale of Laura Dearborn’s experiences in Chicago . . . She made a circle around North Lake (now the North Pond), and came back by way of the Linné monument and the Palm House (now the Lincoln Park Conservatory), Crusader ambling quietly by now, the groom trotting stolidly in the rear.
As a result of the expansion of Lake Shore Drive in the 1930’s, Fullerton Parkway was extended to meet the new highway.  That put Linné in a bit of a bind, and the wide open space over which he had reigned for nearly a half-century was now tight against the new road.
But it was another 40 years before something was done about it.  In 1976 the statue was moved to the University of Chicago, where it sits alongside the Midway Plaisance, minus its four allegorical gee-gaws.   The relocation, which involved the City, the university and the Central Swedish Committee of the Chicago area, coincided with the visit of Carl XVI Gustav, King of Sweden, to Chicago.  The King was feted at a luncheon, and the rededication of the monument was part of the festivities on April 19, 1976.
Carl von Linné on the Midway Plaisance (JWB, 2010)
The great man looks pretty darned good there today, his best foot forward, and all that great Collegiate Gothic architecture over his shoulder.  Stop by on a sunny day and let him know you’re a representative of that group taxonomically known as Homo sapiens, the only living species in the Homogenus of bipedal primates in Hominidae, the great ape family. He'd probably like that.

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