Slater hosts exhibition about sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt

Bela Lyon Pratt’s sculpture of Nathan Hale at Yale University
Bela Lyon Pratt’s sculpture of Nathan Hale at Yale University

Slater Memorial Museum opens the exhibition "Bela Lyon Pratt: Sculptor of Monument" today with a reception from 1 to 3 p.m. that is free and open to the public.

Pratt (1867-1917) was a Norwich native who went on to become a renowned sculptor. In 1892, he created two large sculptural groups representing The Genius of Navigation for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He also produced sculptures for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Mo., in 1904. In 1893, he began a 25-year career as an influential teacher of modeling at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. By 1894, he was being squired around his hometown by William Albert Slater, who toyed with the idea of commissioning Pratt to create a statue for the Slater Memorial, but settled for a bas-relief portrait of his children, Eleanor and Willie.

Pratt received numerous commissions for monumental public work and portrait busts for leaders of educational and cultural institutions around New England. He designed the figures representing Art and Science for the Boston Public Library; Literature, Science and Art for the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress; the Andersonville Boy on the grounds of the State Capitol, Hartford; Nathaniel Hawthorne in Salem, Mass.; and Captain Nathan Hale for Yale University.

Pratt’s maternal grandfather and great uncles Orramel, Henry and John Whittlesey, started the first American piano making company in Salem, Conn. Orramel also founded, in 1835, the first music school for women in the country authorized to confer degrees to teach music, Music Vale Seminary, also in Salem.  

The exhibition will feature 50 sculptural works and two-dimensional works of art, text and archival material. Bela and wife Helen had four children; grandchildren and great-grandchildren have become artists, and the exhibition will showcase their work as well. Pratt’s work will largely be drawn from private collections and will include work by his descendants.

The exhibition aims to reveal his innate draftsmanship, as well as his ability to sensitively capture human emotion, passion, strength and fragility, rendered in bronze and marble.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 15, with a special event on Dec. 10, which is the artist's brithday. The museum is part of the Norwich Free Academy, 108 Crescent St., Norwich. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and 1-4 p.m. Sat. and Sun.; (860) 887-2506.




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