Beethoven (William Andrews Clark, Jr. Memorial Statue)

Historical Background

1932, Arnold Foerster. 7'4"H x 7'W x 6'5"D. Pershing Square
William Andrews Clark, Jr. (1877-1934) was born in wealth. His father made a fortune as a copper magnate in Montana and later served as the state's United States Senator. Though the younger Clark maintained his legal residence in Butte, Montana throughout his life, in 1910 he established a winter home on West Adams in Los Angeles. His philantrophy created two important cultural institutions in Los Angeles--the Clark Library, named and deeded in memory of his father to what is now UCLA, and the Philharmonic Orchestra. After founding the orchestra in 1919, Clark provided an initial subsidy of $100,000. The following year, he gave an additional $200,000 and then continued giving that amount until his death, when his life time contribution exceeded $3,000,000.(1) In gratitude to Clark's financial support, Arthur Pabst of the orchestra's string section initiated a fund raising drive with members of the orchestra for a memorial bust of Clark. Objecting to a depiction of himself, Clark suggested that a bust of his favorite composer, Beethoven, be created and placed in Pershing Square instead.(2) Funds for the memorial were raised at a testimonial concert on April 21, 1928.(3)

Leafie Sloan-Orcutt, counselor of the Philharmonic Orchestra's Woman's Committee, presented the proposed memorial to the Los Angeles City Municipal Arts Commission. She described it as a bust of Beethoven on a granite shaft with an attached bronze plaque stating it was created by members of the orchestra in appreciation of Clark's philanthropy. She also reported that the bust would be similar in design to the one of Lincoln in Lincoln Park, which depicts Lincoln from the waist up.(4)

Hearing of plans for a sculptural portrait of Beethoven, Arnold Foerster told Pabst about his life-long interest and connection with the composer. Foerster remembered a drawing of Beethoven on his father's desk, studying at the Academy of Art, which was across the street from the Academy of Music, where Beethoven's music was performed, and hiking in the woods where Beethoven walked.(5) A decision was later made (not recorded in public records), to execute a statue of Beethoven rather than a bust. Foerster was subsequently awarded the commission and then spent five months preparing a plaster model of a slightly larger than life statue while the Cecil Frankel Quartet played Beethoven string quartets in his studio.(6)

Foerster depicted Beethoven as aging and deft, walking in the woods hearing the voices of the Ninth Symphony.(7) He also attempted to capture the inner Beethoven by portraying him with head bent, preoccupied in thought and oblivious of his surroundings, staring straight ahead with a frowning brow, tight set lips, and hands clasped behind his back holding a cane. Reflecting an indifference to dress, Beethoven wears a long shabby overcoat opened in front, revealing a partially unbuttoned vest. His disheveled look is intensified by unruly hair and an upturned collar.(8)

The bronze statue was cast by the California Art Bronze Foundry under the direction of Guido Nelli.(9) Robert D. Farquhar(10) designed the Riverside granite pedestal with two 6" high steps below a 4' plinth(11) and wrote the pedestal's inscriptions.(12)

The monument was dedicated on the Fifth Street side of Pershing Square, facing the Philharmonic Auditorium. This building, constructed in 1906, was renamed the Philharmonic Auditorium after the Philharmonic Orchestra made it its home following an inaugural season in 1919 at the Embassy Auditorium. In 1964, the orchestra vacated the 2,700 seat auditorium and took up residence in the new Dorothy Chandler Pavillion at the Music Center. Today the site across from Pershing Square lacks any references to its past and now serves as a parking lot.

The dedication of the Clark Memorial was a well-attended affair, with 2,500 people present.(13) During the ceremony the Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Rodzinski, performed Beethoven's Egmont Overture, and the final movement of his Fifth Symphony.(14) Speeches given that day tried to capture the significance of the occasion. Sloan-Orcutt, who unveiled the statue, dedicated the "Beethoven statue to the beloved founder of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Mr. William Andrews Clark, Jr.,"(15) and added that with the monument "we remember to remember the men and women who, like Mr. Clark, have majestically performed service to the community." (16)

Other speeches that day gave other interpretations of the monument. Dedicated when the United States was mired in the worse economic depression in its history, and only three weeks before the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the monument was described by Bishop Bertrand Stevens during his invocation as a "reminder that man does not live by bread alone." (17) And when Orra E. Monnette presented the monument to the city, he claimed that it demonstrates that the people of Los Angeles can remember the finer, sweeter qualities of life. (18) "Our destiny," he asserted "is determined by how nearly we can catch the spirit of such men as Beethoven and Clark."(19) Speaking on behalf of his government, the German Consul, Gustav Struve, expressed appreciation for the tribute to Beethoven. (20) Today his brief comments stand in bold relief against the background of Germany's enthusiastic embrace of Adolph Hitler less than four months later.

After the dedication on October 14, 1932, the Municipal Arts Commission passed a resolution "expressing its appreciation and commendation" to Foerster for his statue. (21) In 1994 the monument was moved to the Palm Court of the redesigned Pershing Square and aligned to look back to the parking lot where the Philharmonic Orchestra once stood.

Because of his generosity, Clark was described as "one of the nation's most disinterested and bountiful benefactors."(22) Yet his contribution to the cultural life of Los Angeles has been largely ignored, even by the management and board of the Philharmonic Orchestra. Ernest Fleishman, the former executive director of the orchestra acceded unenthusiastically to a tribute to Clark during the orchestra's bicentennial. (23) Notice has also been informally given that the William Andrews Clark, Jr., Memorial in Pershing Square will not be invited or welcomed in the sculpture garden planned for the new Disney Hall. Perhaps part of the problem is the ambiguity of the Clark memorial. Though the inscription on the pedestal clearly states that it honors Clark, the statue depicts Beethoven. This confusion could be seen during the 1970s, when The Beethoven Society of America gathered annually at the monument, not to honor Clark, but to remember the anniversary of Beethoven's death.

Footnotes:

1 "William Andrews Clark, Jr., Founder of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra," by Robert Stevenson, in "William Andrews Clark, Jr., His Cultural Legacy," William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles, 1985, p. 31.

2 Minutes of the Municipal Arts Commission, April 13, 1932.

3 "Beethoven Ceremonies Set," Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1932.

4 Municipal Arts Commission April 13, 1932 minutes, Op. Cit.

5 "Beethoven Music Offers Inspiration to Sculpture," by Arthur Millier, Los Angeles Times, in Archives of American Art, Perret Collection, roll 3852, frame 860.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 See "The Changing Image of Beethoven: a study in mythmaking," by Alessandra Comini, New York, Rizzoli, c. 1987 for images Forester drew on, particularly pages 84, 85, 331, 332, 351.

9 "Saturday Night," October 22, 1932, p. 12.

10 Ibid.

11 Municipal Arts Commission May 25, 1932 Minutes, Op. Cit.

12 Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1932, Op. Cit.

13 "Statue of Beethoven Unveiled in Square," Los Angeles Examiner, October 15, 1932.

14 "Saturday Night," October 22, 1932, p. 12.

15 "High Tributes Paid Clark," Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1932, in Archives of American Art, Perret Collection, roll 3852, frame 863.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Los Angeles Examiner, October 15, 1932, Op. Cit.

20 Archives of American Art, Perret Collection, roll 3852, frame 863, Op. Cit.

21 Minutes of the Municipal Arts Commission, October 26, 1932.

22 Stevenson, Op. Cit., p. 44

23 Stevenson, Op. Cit., p. 31.



The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, November 1999.

Back to Public Art in Pershing Square