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 Pompeo Luigi Coppini  (1870 - 1957)

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Lived/Active: Texas/New York / Italy      Known for: portrait statue and commemorative sculpture, painting, writing

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Ad Code: 3
Pompeo Luigi Coppini
from Auction House Records.
General Robert E. Lee
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Pompeo Coppini was an Italian immigrant sculptor whose career led him to Chicago, New York, and Texas. It is primarily in Texas that Coppini's works are most evident, and he displayed great affection for the romantic past of San Antonio. His many Centennial sculpture commissions were a cumulative sum of his art, including the empty tomb, or 'Cenotaph', which honors the site where most of the Alamo's heroes were thought to have died.

In his autobiography, published in 1949, Coppini claims that he saved the Alamo, which was in a state of disrepair. According to him the Daughter's of The Texas Republic could not afford to do the repairs and business persons wanted to buy the property to build a hotel. Coppini said he convinced the Daughters to hold a fundraiser, which they did, to create a permanent historical site.

Coppini was born in May 1870, in Moglia, Mantua, Italy, and spent the majority of his youth in Florence. He studied under Augusto Rivalta at the Accademia di Belle Arte, where he graduated with honors in 1889. Coppini left Italy in 1896 and immigrated to the United States, knowing little English. Within six years he had married and become an U.S. citizen.

In 1901, Coppini moved to Texas and was commissioned to model a statue of Jefferson Davis at the capitol of Austin. Many other commissions followed after 'Davis', including the Littlefield Fountain Memorial and several additional associated statues. Other tributes include: a monument to Sam Houston at Huntsville; busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; 'The Victims of the Galveston Flood', a group statue; an equestrian monument to Terry's Texas Rangers; the bronze doors of the Scottish Rite Cathedral in San Antonio; and a statue in Mexico City, Mexico, of George Washington, to name a few.

In 1916, Coppini moved to Chicago, and then in 1919, again moved to New York City. It was there that he worked on the Littlefield Fountain Memorial with another sculptor, Waldine Tauch, who was an associate of Coppini's until his death. Coppini again returned to San Antonio in 1937 and begin his works for the Texas Centennial and the Cenotaph for those who died at the Alamo. Coppini is credited for other statues including those of Thomas J. Rusk, James W. Fannin, Sam Houston, William B. Travis, Stephen F. Austin, and Mirabeau B. Lamar.

It was not until 1941 that Coppini's works were recognized by the State of Texas, when he was bestowed an honorary doctorate degree in fine arts by Baylor University. Ten years earlier, Italy also recognized Coppini with their 'Commendatore' of the Crown of Italy for his many art contributions in the United States.

It is ironic that as Coppini honored many with his statues, many other sculptors have honored Coppini with monuments of their own. Specifically, in the United States, there are sixteen portrait statues, nearly 75 portrait busts, and about 36 public monuments honoring Coppini.

Coppini died in 1957, in San Antonio, and was buried in a crypt he designed himself. His studio at 115 Melrose Place, San Antonio, is now a museum displaying many of his works and those of Waldine Tauch.

John and Deborah Powers, "Texas Painters, Sculptors and Graphic Artists"
Pompeo Coppini, "Pompeo Coppini", 1949

Biography from Williams American Art Galleries:
Pompeo Luigi Coppini, sculptor, writer and painter, was born in Moglia, Italy in 1870.  Coppini was raised in Florence and attended the local Academia de Belle Arti, studying under Augusto Rivalta and Emilio Zocchi.  After graduating in 1889, he served for the next two years in a Bersaglieri regiment before going to work in northern Italy.

In 1896 Coppini immigrated to New York City, eventually finding employment as an assistant to sculptor Alexander Doyle, while sometimes garnering his own commissions.  Five years later the sculptor became a citizen of the U. S. and took his first trip to Texas in order to assist Frank Teich with a monument; it would be the beginning of his life-long ties to the 'Lone Star State'.

Coppini relocated to San Antonio where he worked from for the next two decades excepting for a brief period when he was commissioned for an equestrian statue in Lexington, Kentucky in 1911. 

In 1916 he moved to Chicago, but continued work on several Texas projects.  It was 1920 when Coppini was contracted to sculpt a fountain and accompanying statues for the South Mall of the University of Texas in Austin.  The Littleton Fountain symbolized the reuniting of the North and South after the Civil War.

He moved again in 1922, this time to New York, but as before continued to work often in Texas.  Coppini was decorated “Commendatore” of the Order of the Crown of Italy for his contribution to the arts in the U. S. in 1931. 

Texas called the artist home in 1936, and he returned to San Antonio for the remainder of his life, spending the occasional summer in Pelham Manor, New York.  The following year he began work on what became known as the Alamo Cenotaph.  Completed in 1939, it is one of his largest works; the base is 12 feet by 40 feet; it stands 60 feet tall and is enrobed in Coppini’s extraordinarily detailed bas-relief figures, some standing 25 feet tall.

Baylor University in Waco, Texas awarded him an honorary doctorate of fine arts in 1940, and he served as head of the art department at Trinity University from 1943-45.  

Coppini and his protégé student, Waldine Tauch, founded the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in San Antonio in 1945 and it continues to educate art students and serve as a museum.  The Italian immigrant was duly appointed an Honorary Texan by Governor Allan Shivers in 1952.  Coppini sculpted and taught at his Academy until his death in 1957.

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