New life for Life model

Winged Victory maquette discovered in pieces

Memorial Park’s larger than life statue has several names, among them “Spiritualized Life” and “Winged Victory” but one more that could be added to the list – at least, for a smaller scale model – is Lost and Found.

In May 1958, Mrs. Carl Durham and Mrs. W.T. Cheshire, Jr., daughters of sculptor Adrian Pillars, and his widow, Mrs. C.H. Stewart, look at what is believed to be the original plaster model of Life. Photo courtesy of Wayne Wood.

In May 1958, Mrs. Carl Durham and Mrs. W.T. Cheshire, Jr., daughters of sculptor Adrian Pillars, and his widow, Mrs. C.H. Stewart, look at what is believed to be the original plaster model of Life. Photo courtesy of Wayne Wood.

Rev. Barnum McCarty, rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1971-1995, was a boy when his family bought a portion of C. Adrian Pillar’s property from the sculptor’s sister after Pillar’s death in 1937. According to McCarty, as told to the Memorial Park Association, his parents found an old shed on the property filled with all sorts of things, including a “sketch model” – a 30- to 32-inch plaster cast of the Life statue.

The McCartys took it back to Pillars’ brother-in-law Charles Briggs, who decided to keep the statue in the family.

Then, 34 years after the bronze statue Life was dedicated in 1924, the plaster working model – or maquette – was spied by Dr. Charles and Nadia Mead while house hunting. The Pottsburg Road home they were looking at in 1958 belonged to Briggs, who still had the maquette.

Nadia Mead was publicity chairman for the Jacksonville Art Museum at that time and recognized the statue as the working model for Life. After it had been on display in the late 1950s at the Jacksonville Art Museum, the model was misplaced.

Eventually that original cast was located in disrepair at Jacksonville University by Dr. Dianne Dawood Taylor, leadership outreach coordinator and professor at the University of North Florida.

“After being in the books and the research, it was really exciting to find the model,” said Taylor. “It was just remarkable that so many of his works were lost and then we found this original model; and the Life statute is just so iconic and so important that of all Pillar’s works it was most important to find this model.”

Taylor’s thesis for her master’s in fine arts was on Charles Adrian Pillars and, with co-author Dr. Wayne Wood, is writing a book on the statue.

Wood took the broken model to Sally Corporation seeking a sculptor to repair it and make a mold for reproductions. “It appears to be the original model that Pillars took around to the Rotary clubs to sell them on the idea of the statue,” said Wood. “It’s finely detailed.”

Wood and Taylor have custody of the model and are considering plans to offer reproductions to art collectors to raise funds for preservation-minded organizations such as the Jacksonville Historical Society, the Memorial Park Association or Riverside Avondale Preservation.

Wood noted that a grant to first fund the repair of the model and then to create a new mold would be appreciated. If you are interested in helping preserve this part of Riverside’s history, contact Wayne Wood at [email protected]

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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