Felix de Weldon, (American, 1907- 2003)
The Original Iwo Jima Monument, sculpted in Washington D.C., June September, 1945
The original Iwo Jima monument, cast stone over a steel skeleton welded to a steel base, the monument finished with a bronzed lacquered layer.
A SYMBOL OF WARTIME BRAVERY, OF NATIONAL UNITY, AND OF THE MARINE CORPS. THE ORIGINAL IWO JIMA MONUMENT WAS CONCEIVED BY FELIX DE WELDON ON THE EVENING OF THE 23rd FEBRUARY 1945, based on the Rosenthal photograph of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima on the 4th day of the Battle, as it came through to the naval base at Patuxent Naval Air Station, Maryland, where Felix de Weldon was stationed.
This is one of the most potent images of heroism and bravery in battle of the 20th century, the raising of the Stars and Stripes on the summit of Mount Suribachi on the fourth day of fighting for the island in February 1945 has become a symbol of American Nationalism and Unity and serves as a fitting Monument to the bravery of the Marine Corps Forces serving around the World to this very day. Who better to espouse the principles that the monument represents than the artist himself; when this Iwo Jima Monument was unveiled in Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C. outside the old Navy Building, on Constitution Avenue, the artist gave the following dedication:
'I tried to create something more than a statue A symbol of Unison of Action and Determination, the Will to Sacrifice, and the Dedication to maintain Peace and Freedom, and to hold our Flag high.
This Flag that we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thoughts and our purpose as a Nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choice is ours...It floats in majestic silence above the multitude which executes this choice, whether in peace or in war. And yet though silent, it speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us and record they wrote upon it. It has witnessed a great history and as it floats on high, it symbolizes an event which made this country great and the Freedom for which our people have fought. It symbolizes a time on the Field of Battle when Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue'.
The Genesis and Realization of the Iwo Jima Monument:
The Iwo Jima monument is based on the famous photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of the second Flag Raising at the top of Mount Suribachi on the morning of the 4th day of the battle for Iwo Jima. Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, was attached to the Marines landing on Iwo Jima that day for their assault on Mount Suribachi. He arrived in the morning and with his bulky Speed Graphic Camera ascended mount Suribachi in the wake of the assault; halfway up he met four battered marines coming down , amongst them was Sgt Lou Lowey, a photographer for Leatherneck Magazine, who said that the flag had already been raised on the summit at 10:37. But the Marine command were not satisfied with the rather small flag erected on the top of the mountain, and ordered a second, much larger flag, to be put in its place. Rosenthal continued to climb up the mountain and once there tried to find the marines who had raised the flag to get a group picture. No one seemed able or willing to tell him where they were and so Rosenthal turned his attention to the group of Marines about to raise the second larger flag. As Rosenthal himself said:
'I thought of trying to get a shot of the two flags, one coming down the other going up, but although this turned out to be a picture Bob Campbell got, I couldn't line it up. Then I decided to get just the one flag going up, and I backed off about 35 feet.... out of the corner of my eye, as I had turned toward Genaust, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene.'
Rosenthal didn't know what he had taken, he gathered the men into a group under the flag and took a second photo of the flag raising group then he slid and ran down the mountain, to give his film over to be airlifted by seaplane to CINPAC HQ in Guam where they arrived at 8am (local time). There the developed pictures were given to AP photo editor John Bodkin. He apparently selected the famous photo and sent the image to the Navy's wireless receiving stations in the US and to the AP headquarters in New York. The photo arrived in time to be on the front pages of most Sunday newspapers on February 25th 1945. The photograph caused a sensation!
One of the wireless receiving stations it was sent to was Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland, established in 1943 and then one of the Pentagon's largest wireless communications stations. Combat photographs came into the station because they had an advanced photo lab, and its distance from Washington provided clear radio reception. At Patuxent, a young naval rating, Felix de Weldon was serving as a Painters Mate First Class, but was in fact an Artist of Naval Aviation. He became accustomed to check the wireless picture receiver on a regular basis, and the executive officer, Commander T.B. Clarke, would often call him in to look at good combat images. When the Rosenthal photograph came through de Weldon knew it was a special image and asked Commander Clarke if he could make a model of the flag raising. A maquette was quickly sculpted that night and over the weekend by the young naval rating, from a mixture of floor and ceiling wax gathered from the kitchens. Commander Clarke saw the wax maquette and called in his Commanding Officer and de Weldon was sent with his model to Washington to Admiral Denfield, Chief of Naval Personnel. Denfield transferred de Weldon to his office and showed the maquette to General Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Vandegrift insisted it stay in his office and arranged to have de Weldon transferred to the Marine Corps, where he was given an office in the Naval Annex in Arlington. It was to that office that the three surviving flag raisers Hayes, Gagnon and Bradley, were brought when they were lifted out of Iwo Jima a few weeks later. Here in Arlington, de Weldon worked on his plans for the Iwo Jima Monument. Several members of Congress came to see the maquette, and many began to call for the construction of a huge statue based on the model. From the 4 foot wax original de Weldon cast 4 plaster versions, one of which was given to President Truman (now displayed at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri) the other two plaster versions of the wax maquette languished in his new studio. De Weldon was discharged from the Navy, but that did not interrupt his plan for the Iwo Jima Monument. De Weldon and the Marine Corps worked together after his discharge. The Marine Corps secured a site in front of the Navy Department Building on Constitution Avenue (now the Federal Reserve Building). At the same time the Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal (who had himself witnessed the flag raising) gave congressional approval for a voluntary committee of friends of the Marine Corps 'for the acquisition of the statue and its preservation in an attractive location in Washington City'. De Weldon soon acquired the large studio in Randolf Street of the 18th century sculptor Paul Bartlett, and there he built both this original 1945 Monument and the 1954 Marine Corps Memorial, as well as many other statues and monuments.
In Orders of 28th June 1945 five marines were detailed to report to de Weldon to serve as 'models and helpers in assembling and moving material which will go into the construction of this memorial. In View of the fact that they will spend much of their time posing as models, it is important that the men chosen be excellent physical specimens and representative of the Corps.' To assist him in the project, de Weldon also chose an old New York art associate, Bill Petsco, as a construction foreman and supervising sculptor. Petsco commuted to Washington every week and within 3 months the 4 foot model had been scaled up to the present monument. The Treasury's War Loan Department adopted the image and had a light-weight hollow traveling version of the monument made up and a poster issued for the 7th War Bond Drive in the summer of 1945. The three surviving flag raisers toured the States as heroes, and in this process the Iwo Jima Flag Raising image helped to sell enough war bonds raised to erase half the national debt incurred during the war.
This first 1945 Iwo Jima Monument stood outside the Navy Building from November 1945 to November 1947, and plans for making an even larger 30 foot version were already in the making when, in September 1947, de Weldon received a letter from Brig. General W. E. Riley of the Commandants office that the Commandant had been ordered by the Superintendent of National Parks to remove it by October 1st to make way for an new office building for the Pan American Union. De Weldon tried to place the monument elsewhere for public display, the marine barracks at Quantico, Virginia being one option- but Quantico preferred to have a new Indiana limestone monument made and so the original monument went to Quantico to be used as the model for the construction of the limestone monument that still adorns the entrance to the base. From Quantico, the original monument was taken back to his studio, and a mould taken from it to produce 3 other examples, in the 1960's. Finally it was taken outdoors, where it was wrapped in tarpaulins and left in the yard. There it remained until rediscovered by The War Museum in the 1980s, while even de Weldon thought it had been thrown away. The War Museum purchased the monument and the plaster maquettes from de Weldon in 1990 and moved them to Sculpture House Castings in Princeton, NJ. There over the next 5 years the restoration took place slowly, assisted by Bill Petsco, who had worked on the sculpture in 1945, and came out of retirement for the project. On February 19th 1995, exactly 50 years after the D-Day landing on Iwo Jima, the original Iwo Jima Monument was unveiled in the hangar deck of the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum in New York. It became a centre-piece with many of the objects in this catalog in cases around it. When the Intrepid went off to Staten Island to be restored in 2007, the monument was taken into storage in Connecticut.
Felix de Weldon An Extraordinary Career:
Felix de Weldon was Austrian by birth, born in the old Hapsburg Empire. A precocious child, by 11 he had displayed his interest and ability in sculpture, creating a carved nude called 'Reverie'. At 10 he attended Marchetti College, Vienna and went on to do an MA. MS and PhD at the University of Vienna's Academy of Creative Arts and School of Architecture studying art music and history, engineering and architecture. He traveled widely in Europe to Rome and Florence, to Spain and to Paris, absorbing great art. As he said himself 'what I sought and found in the arts was the enhancement of life. My passion for the visible world brought beauty within my grasp. Most influential of all, was my admiration for the beauty of the human body...and so I decided to build on what I had learned from the masters and follow tradition the tradition of art which speaks directly to the human spirit. As a Sculptor I was most inspired by the art of Classical Greece, and after that by the art of the Italian Renaissance. I loved it all.' He was commissioned in 1932 to do a monument commemorating President Hoovers Children's Relief in Europe called 'The Call of Youth'. At the age of 26 he left Vienna to study Archaeology at Oxford, and went on to London, where he established an art studio, and many noble patrons came to his first one-man show. Somehow the young Sculptor enticed many notable figures to sit for him and went on to produce busts of Lloyd George, Allenby, and coronation Busts for George V, George VI, and Edward VII. Following a bust that he sculpted for the Prime Minister of Canada in 1937, he came in 1939 to New York, and it was there that he met his future wife, whom he married in 1944. During the war he joined the Navy, the Seabees, and was then transferred to be artist for naval aviation. He was working on a large canvas of the Battle of the Coral Sea, when the Rosenthal photograph came through on the wire. For the next 10 years the Iwo Jima monuments defined de Weldon's work and became the stepping stone to his extensive work on memorials and monuments both in North America and around the world. It is believed that Felix de Weldon executed more than 1,200 public commissions around the world - the only artist to have a monumental sculpture on each continent including the South Pole. More than 30 cities in the US have a monument by de Weldon and his work apart from this 1945 Iwo Jima Monument, and the 1954 Arlington Marine Corps Memorial include the National Monument for Malaysia, Civil War Monument at Fredericksburg, Simon Bolivar Statue, Red Cross Monument, National Guard Monument and the Civil Engineer Corps Monument all in Washington D.C., Revolutionary War Memorial of Marines in Philadelphia, as well as numerous bronze busts, statues, statuettes and medallions.
Included with this lot are the following pieces:
1. A pencil sketch of the flag to be placed on the monument, signed "F d W."
2. A sheet with penciled notes of the lettering for the original base of the monument by de Weldon.
3. A period photograph of de Weldon in his Naval uniform, framed and another similar unframed. (2)
4. A collection of 4 photographs of the original wax maquette comprising a period photograph by de Weldon of the wax maquette outside the Naval Station at Patuxent, and 2 later copies of president Truman inspecting the plaster maquette with both de Weldon and Rosenthal watching, the wax maquette in de Weldon's office in Arlington with the 3 surviving Flag Raisers; together with 2 commendations from Mumford and Vandegrift (photocopy), both dated May 9th, 1945, and the original typed orders for de Weldon to report to the White House and present the wax maquette to President Truman, dated June 4th, 1945.
5. The original carbon copies of the Orders of Commandant of the Marine Corps and Office of the Commanding Officer Marine Barracks, dated June 28th and 30th, detailing six marines to assist de Weldon on the Monument; and 9 later photographs of the six marines in groups or singly with the plaster maquette of the monument, and the six marines posing as flag raisers.
6. Nine period photographs (by de Weldon) of the first Iwo Jima Monument in his studio in North Washington; and 8 later copies of the Monument in the studio and de Weldon in his new Marine Corps uniform.
7. A wooden tool box with 9 tools including the files and chisels that de Weldon used to make the Monument; together with a mixing spade and a mock up for casting the rifles. Four of the photographs above show de Weldon using the same tools while working on the Arlington monument
8. A set of three 78r.p.m discs of the Iwo Jima Monument Unveiling Ceremony, November 10th, 1945 (with a modern CD of the recording); together with 5 period press photographs of the ceremony.
9. District Savings Bonds Division U.S. Treasury The Iwo Jima Photo Contest March 17th 1946 to raise awareness of the Bonds in the Washington Area. Nine period photographs in black and white; together with 4 color digital photographs of the monument in Constitution Avenue.
10. The Congressional Record dated March 1 1946 commemorating the unveiling of the first monument, with addresses by Mr Hays to the House of Representatives, and addresses by General Vandegrift and Felix de Weldon at the unveiling ceremony.
As General Vandergrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps said, at the Unveiling ceremony of this monument on November 20th 1945.
'We in the Marine Corps are proud that the men represented in this statue here to be dedicated are marines. We are proud with the same pride that we take in our entire years of tradition of which this deed has become an immortal part...we know that its meaning encompasses the whole effort of the people of our Nation... The men who raised the flag symbolized the sacrifice made throughout the ranks of our fighting men....
May this heroic statue serve to remind all who pass that we must keep the faith with the brave and the fallen.' Height (with the Flag) 20 feet; (without Flag) 12 feet 2 in. Length 18 feet 7 in. Width 8 feet 1in. Weight 10,000 lbs.