The closing of museums during the pandemic put me in a state of art withdrawal. In search of a fix, I traveled to various locations in the Greater Boston area looking for publicly-accessible art. One place to find art is college campuses, so one day in June I visited Harvard University in Cambridge, MA to see what art I could find without having to go inside. I found quite a bit of art, and some of it was fairly easy to identify either through plaques or online searching. In one case, I had no luck with IDs. If you know anything about the unidentified artworks, please leave a comment!
Outside Adolphus Busch Hall proudly stands a replica of the Brunswick Lion. The original was made in 1166 and is located in Dankwarderode Castle in Braunschweig, Germany. This replica was made in about 1900-1903.
Speaking of lions, these two Chinese protector lions are located at the entrance to the Harvard-Yenching Library, but I have been unable to locate any information about them. If you have anything to share (artist, date, provenance, country of origin, etc.), I would appreciate it.
Certainly the most famous sculpture on the Harvard University campus is Daniel Chester French’s 1884 statue of John Harvard, which, as any student can tell you, is not a likeness of 17th Century benefactor John Harvard (there are no paintings or drawings of him) but of 19th Century Harvard student Sherman Hoar. Daniel Chester French’s most famous work is the statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Although much of the architecture at Harvard consists of traditional 19th and early 20th Century brick and stone structures, in 1948, the University commissioned The Architects Collaborative, led by Bauhaus innovator Walter Gropius, to design a Graduate Student Center on campus. The modernist features of the multi-building complex serve as a stark contrast to the ivy-covered walls of old Harvard. As part of the project, Gropius commissioned a number of artworks, including this one, called World Tree (1950), by Richard Lippold.
An archival photo from the 1950s shows Gropius and his colleagues (including John Harkness) posing on the sculpture.
My personal favorite work of public art at Harvard is Night Wall I (1972) by Louise Nevelson, which is located outside Hauser Hall at Harvard Law School. The multi-component sculpture, made of steel painted black, presents many different views as you walk around it, and reveals more layers of detail the more time you spend with it. As seen in these photos, the play of light and shadow on the various steel surfaces is an added component of interest – the time of day and season of the year will affect the viewing experience.
During my June 2020 walk through a deserted campus, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this triptych in the windows of the Sherman Fairchild Biochemistry Building. The works are (from left): Hope, Uncertainty and Hope III (all 2020). They are part of the Pandemic Series by Marla Allisan, who is listed on Harvard’s website as a member of the University’s Health Services staff.