The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York on March 16, 1924 · Page 99
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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York · Page 99

Brooklyn, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 16, 1924
Page 99
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Page Eleven Pompeo Coppini: Sculptor, Rotarian Pompeo Coppini f os He Appears Conversing in His Studio By George Edward Lyndon Jr. BENEATH the deft fingers of a sculptor comparatively new to New York the militant idealism which launched America upon the greatest war in history is being translated into an allegory of bronze and marble which, when completed, will stand a one of the most remarkable and strikingly symbolic memorials growing out of a struggle which fired the fervid soul of art as it fired the soul of humanity. The memorial is the conception of Pompeo Coppini who is molding it into a clay model in his studio at 210 West Fourteenth street, Manhattan, where its massive and heroic figures tower far into the reaches of a room lofty as the flies of a modern theater stage. The central group is composed of three careering monstrosities in the form of sea horses, each bearing a horned titan of the deep, and between them dragging Columbia, triumphant, ensconced in a chariot with giant figures symbolic of America's armed forces in Europe. The suggestion of plunging, resistless strength in these monsters, half horses, half dolphins, with their riders of the deep, is in startling contrast to the triumphantly serene Winged Victory in the chariot, and in even greater, though never incongruous, contrast to the calm immobility of pedestaled figures of Jefferson Davis, Civil War President of the Confederate States, and Woodrow Wilson, war President of a united nation. Into the statue of Woodrow Whson, which forms one of the predominant details in the allegorical group, Mr. Coppini has piit some of the finest work of his career and it is work the timeliness as well as the excellence of which promises to introduce him to the world of American art as one of its conspicuous figures. The statue is of heroic proportions, standing ten feet without its pedestal. The posture is easy and natural and in his delineation of the facial lines of the late President the sculptor has caught something of the intangible qualities which made Woodrow Wilson great even in the eyes of those who condemned his policies and ideals. In a sense it is an idealization; but also it is realism. Because this is a memorial to stand at the entrance to the University of Texas in Austin, the traditions of the South are woven into the allegory, and the main group of Columbia returning to America with her victorious army and navy is flanked by four statues of Southern heroes. The memorial was begun three years ago and will not be completed until 1927. It is the gift of the late Major George W. Littlefield, retired president of the American National Bank of Austin, and one of the wealthiest men of Texas. As interesting as is this strikingly effective allegory the personality of its creator is even more interesting. He is Italian born, but, as he somewhat quaintly puts It, American-reborn. He wants to look the business man and does it, lie is temperamental. Though I am Italian born, I am American reborn" says this sculptor of the Nation's heroes, whose inspiration is the desire that "this country may not forget." but with the temperament of a rather naive and impetuous child always effervescent with his own somewhat abrupt enthusiasms, rather than with the atmospheric hysteria generally indigenous to art with a broad a. In fact Jhere is a bit of a question as to whether Pompeo Coppini is an American first and an artist second, or the other way around. Perhaps he is all artist in the sense that his art fills every cranny in his cosmos, leaving no place for the atmospheres and attitudinations of art, thereby keeping him healthily human and, more or less, the "bizness" man he admires so much. Signor doubtless he prefers plain mister Coppini is one artist who is, at the same time, a Rotarian, and an enthusiastic one. He is a flaming, somewhat inarticulate but expressively gesticulating one hundred and eighty-odd pounds of animation when patriotism particularly American patriotism is mentioned. In his studio he exhibits proudly, and somewhat wistfully, a modeled figure of rebuke to those who so soon forgot the country's returned heroes. It is a figure tempestuously flung into being after hearing a speech extolling American boys who came back to find the enthusiasm which hailed their departure overseas sadly abated. "I weep when I heard that speech," said Signor Coppini. "Then I make this statue to show how people have forgot. But my soldier friends say, 'Coppini, do not finish this statue, because it will make bitterness and not help after all.' So there it is just so much plaster; but it is what I feel." Mr. Coppini was asked if he was an American. "I wish I was," he began, and then, "I am American reborn," he finished, laughing as delightedly as a child who has discovered a very wide rift in a very dark cloud. There followed a disconcerting surprise to an en-terviewer not unaccustomed to incongruities. "Are you a member of Rotary?" asked Sculptor Coppini wdiout any warning preamble. Standing In the midst of his art, his short, thickset figure swathed in a wide smock and his strong neck rising from a Byronesque collar, he was as suggestive of Rotary's "go-getter" credo as Michael Angelo might have been of Caesar Borgia. "Me I'm member every where I go," he raced on, with a voice that fairly gurgled happiness at the mere term Rotary. The walls of Signor Coppini's studio are generously dotted with paintings, perhaps a trifle bold in manner, but with a dash and a vigor which betray a real and skillfully interpreted feeling for color and sensitively restrained action. These are by Coppini, the painter, who preceded Coppini the sculptor only to succumb because Coppini the man weighed matters seriously in his mind and decided at the last that paint and canvas were impermanent mediums, while bronze and marble endureth forever, or thereabouts. "That is a conceit, eh?" he cried, thoroughly delighted with the serious value his youth had placed upon its labors. "Paintings they burn, they rot they become destroyed. Not that for Coppini, the young. Not on your life! Coppini's work must endure"' He winked slyly. "Oh, dear me! Such treasures nvist be kept safe for the world. Therefore, Coppini, the maybe too serious painter, becomes in time Coppini the sensible sculptor." This must not be taken to mean that Signor Coppini views his work lightly. Anything but! He is absorbed in it. It is the most serious thing on earth. But his work is himself, literally, and he is rather inclined to view himself with a questioning eye. He wants to know. He doesn't feel that he already knows. He is athirst to be taught and any one who comes along may play teacher. It is your idea he wants. What do you think of that arm; the turn of tensed sinew beneath the firm texture of a horse's shoulder? What of this expression; that gesture? If he disagrees with your criticism, that ends it, but ends it pleasantly. Should he agree with you, which is very much more than likely if you are right, then promptly ho becomes your blood brother. You 'aave helped the work. Perhaps the statue by Coppini which has best perpetuated the career as well as the physical image of its original is that of George Washington, which rtands, now and then, in a particularly beautiful plaza of Mexico City. He was commissioned to make the statue, a heroic figure in bronze, during the administration of President Diaz, while the United States was enjoying one of its intermittent periods of popularly with the Mexican Government. Subsequently, -through changing governmei,'? with decidedly changing sympathies, the staf;t was alternately hauled int.) the dust and raised to its pedestal. When its creator last heard it was on its feet, so to speak, and extending its hand in friendly greeting to the sister republic below the Rio Grande. Signor Coppini was born fifty-three years ago in the little village of Moglia, in northern Italy, and his rebirth dates back twenty-seven years, when he first came to the United States at the age of twenty-six. In order to become a painter he ran away from the engineering school where his parents had sent him to keep him out of the overrun field of art, and, as has fceen stated, in order to become a sculptor he engaged in a thoughtful conference with himself on the impermanence of paint and canvas. His first statue, made with the proceeds of a cash prize given by the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, fell and broke itself into small pieces before he could exhibit it, and this is a tragedy which he does not like to discuss even now. " 4 s v 4 1 x- , i : ,x The Statue ot f it't Woodrow i I jisW Wihon 1 IrtfVl ft by Signor 1 I W Coppini fsfk It 1 tr

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