With comparisons of his work to that of Raphael and Rodin, the late Frederick Hart was a celebrated American artist known for his classically-inspired sculptures in marble and bronze. Uninterested in ‘art for art’s sake,’ Hart used his works to convey a moral responsibility and shed light on the darker periods of human history. The Atlanta-born artist began working at the Washington National Cathedral in 1967 where he apprenticed alongside Italian stone carvers. Years later, Hart would enter the design competition for the cathedral’s main façade and impress the judges with his scale models of an allegory to creation. He was awarded the project at the age of thirty-one and thus his decades-long career in figurative art began. Hart went on to complete a five-year term on the Commission of Fine Art under the presidency of Ronald Reagan and produce the well-known sculpture, Three Soldiers, which currently stands in the National Mall as part of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C
The current lot, Daughters of Odessa, is a breathtaking example of the artist’s oeuvre and the influences that came to define his later period. At first inspired by the tragic deaths of the four Romanov daughters, Daughters of Odessa is an overall homage to the children who lost their lives throughout the catastrophes of the twentieth century – the Ukraine being the site of many, including the First World War, the Nazi invasion and Stalinist oppression. The sculptures depict four girls in diaphanous gowns with their eyes partly closed and arms outstretched, as if heeding a far away call. The work has promoted many, such as James Cooper in Frederick Hart: Changing Tides to recall Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, a seminal work in homage to martyrdom and existentialism.
‘Although they are standing quite still, there is a sense of joy, movement and dance, created by the artist’s brilliant deployment of gesture,’ Cooper writes, and ‘like Rodin’s Burghers, these figures are so perfectly conceived they have also been cast and exhibited separately.’ Indeed, each figure has been cast alone in bust form to create the individual works of Innocence, Faith, Hope and Beauty. Hart subtitled this work Martyrs of Modernism, as a response to the abstraction he encountered in much of the artwork of the twentieth century viewing it as the antithesis to grace and beauty, two ideals he held in the utmost esteem throughout his lauded career.