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Study for the Birth of Venus

When Robert Laurent was hired in 1942 to head IU’s new sculpture department, plans for a monumental sculpture outside of the university’s new auditorium were already being discussed. In 1952 he submitted three different designs for the central figure in The Birth of Venus. This pencil study relates to the version that was ultimately selected—that of a reclining goddess with a jumping fish between her legs. Although differing slightly from the final sculpture, the sketch’s anatomical distortion and simple lines reflect Laurent’s neo-primitive style. He takes a classical theme and gives it a modern Art Deco feel inspired by stylistic sources from antiquity, the Renaissance, American folk art, and non-Western imagery.

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection include several bronze maquettes for The Birth of Venus sculpture in various sizes (Eskenazi Museum of Art 54.1, 91.314, and 2001.48.1–.3) and sixteen photographs of Laurent working on the project by Van Deren Coke (Eskenazi Museum of Art 2012.123, .126-.137, .126.1, and .160-.161). Two additional designs for the Venus sculpture are in the Indiana University Archives and Lilly Library.

Robert Laurent
American, born France, 1890–1970
Study for the Birth of Venus
ca. 1952–54
Graphite on paper
Image/sheet: 10 5/8 x 15 7/8 in. (40.5. x 27.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of August L. Freundlich in honor of his daughter Mary F. Held, 2008.219

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