You can’t visit FDR Four Freedoms Park State Park without taking a moment to see the sculpture dedicated to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The bronze bust is a focal point of Louis Kahn’s design, which uses forced perspective to turn visitors’ eyes southward toward the president. Read on to learn four interesting facts about the bust, including who made it and who makes sure the bust retains its gleaming appearance.
1. Jo Davidson Made the Portrait Sculpture
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1933, his mother Sara Delano invited famous sculptor Jo Davidson to create a bust of her son. Davidson was renowned for his work worldwide (he arrived from his studio in Paris) and had previously sculpted visionaries such as Gertrude Stein, Albert Einstein, and Charlie Chaplin. Although Davidson had previously worked for many influential people, his moment with Roosevelt was still exceptional. “President Roosevelt won me completely with his charm, his beautiful voice and his freedom from constraint. He had an unshakable faith in man,” Davidson said in his autobiography Between Sittings.
2. The Bronze Bust in the Park Was Created by Polich Tallix
While Davidson created the original portrait sculpture, a foundry named Polich Tallix in Beacon, NY is responsible for the larger bust we see in the Park. The foundry is famous for helping artists such as Willem de Kooning and Roy Lichtenstein execute their visions since 1968.
3. You Need Wax to Protect the Bust
As the bust endures rain, wind, snow, and extensive sun exposure, a protective layer of wax on top of the bust helps prevent it from damage and appearing too weathered by the elements. Polich Tallix regularly performs maintenance on the bust, including annual wax treatments, so that it remains in exceptional condition.
4. Everyday Detergent Cleans Up the Bust
Prior to the wax getting touched up, the bust must be cleaned — and just regular detergent and water does the trick! It removes dirt and particles that have attached themselves to the outermost layer of wax. After that, the bronze in the sculpture is heated and new wax is applied, dried, and buffed to make the sculpture look like new.
Cover photo by Michael Heck, Four Freedoms Park Conservancy.