The Daughters of Odessa, c.1998
Donated to Summa Health by the Shaffer Family
Materials: 4-figure group in 3 pieces, cast bronze.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), Dee and Rennick Andreoli Courtyard.
This sculptural group now graces the Dee and Renick Andreoli Courtyard on the western edge of the Summa Health System -- Akron Campus, where it appears to dance in prevailing westerly breezes and is particularly luminescent in the late afternoon sun. The sculpture was first realized in clay by the artist Frederick E. Hart. He cast the clay into the enduring metal, bronze, as three separate pieces to allow for varied groupings. Members of the Shaffer family who donated this work also participated in the decision-making as the figures were installed in late 2020 on new sandstone bases created specifically for this new location.
The four young women represent the four daughters of the Russian Czar Nicholas II -- Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga, and Maria — who were slain with the rest of their family in 1918 in Odessa, following the February Revolution. But Frederick (“Rick”) Hart also intended them to refer more widely to all children who perished in war and other violence in the 20th century. It is a reflection of his artistic philosophy that he emphasizes the daughters’ grace and beauty, rather than the tragedy of their deaths, for he expressed on many occasions his conviction that art should celebrate eternal verities and serve to ennoble those who behold it. (The creation of the work, the Daughters of Odessa, is described in detail in Michael Novak’s Frederick Hart: Changing Tides (2005).) The Shaffers were particularly drawn to this work because of the sculptor’s ability to capture elegant line and timeless qualities in the female form. The Daughters of Odessa is based on a sculpture which Hart first presented to Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1998.
Born in Atlanta, Hart attended the University of South Carolina and the Corcoran School of Art: The sculpture class at the Corcoran set him on a path of a naturalistic style which he endowed with strong expressive qualities. He later apprenticed with master stone-carver Roger Morigi, who at the time was working on the many sculptures on the exterior of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This experience culminated in Hart’s commission to sculpt the high-relief stone panels above (the tympana) and adjacent to the Cathedral’s three western entrance doors, the Creation series.
Among the many commissions for sculpture that followed was the free-standing bronze group that Hart was asked to add to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial on the Mall in D.C. in 1984. Hart cast the naturalistic sculpture of three servicemen which some thought made the entire work’s intent clearer, more explicit, than the abstract granite walls Lin had inscribed with the names of those who lost lives in the conflict. The original memorial and the Hart addition are juxtaposed on the Mall in Washington D.C. today. Hart speaks about this commission, and the thoughts that generated it, in a video and on his website.
Hart worked in bronze and stone in what he termed a classic style inspired by works from the 19th century, taking advantage of the expressive potential and traditional references of each material. He also experimented with casting some of his work in other, more unusual materials, such as acrylic, in order to make it more widely available, and one can find copies of some of his works in several variations still available through private galleries. Multiple works by Hart were selected or commissioned by the federal and state governments to be presented to dignitaries representing foreign countries, as well as the Pope. Among these are portraits of former presidents, senators, and other government officials, many of which you can see in the halls of the U.S. Capitol and in other state capitols around the country.
In 2004, Frederick Hart was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
You can see Hart’s three Creation portals (1974-84) at the entrance to the National Cathedral in Georgetown (Washington D.C.) and in this excerpted video from his website, which also contains extensive information on original sculptures and copies.Copies still can be cast, on demand, from the many maquettes (small-scale models) that Hart made over a lifetime of creative work. His website also contains an extensive biography.