Avard Tennyson Fairbanks was born in 1897 in Provo, Utah. His father, John B. Fairbanks, had studied art in Paris as an art missionary sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Avard’s first major commission was with his older brother, painter J. Leo Fairbanks, to produce statuary and friezes for the LDS Hawaii Temple. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts and Ph.D. in anatomic science from the University of Michigan. He taught art at the University of Oregon and the University of Michigan before returning to his home state to organize a College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. He retired as Dean of the College of Fine Arts in 1955, but continued sculpting until his death at age 90 in 1987.
Avard Fairbanks sculpted early white western settlers throughout his long career. His depictions of pioneer men, women, and children changed little in heroic statuary from the 1920s through the 1970s. However, his depictions of family relationships among those stock characters changed over time, reflecting changing family norms. 1920s celebrations of pioneer mothers carrying white civilization westward yielded to an emphasis on the nuclear family after World War II. Fairbanks’ works for LDS audiences remained more focused on patriarchal father figures, while those for secular audiences tended to emphasize mothers or children.
Explore pioneer monuments sculpted by Avard T. Fairbanks
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