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 Felix George Weihs de Weldon  (1907 - 2003)

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Lived/Active: Maryland/District Of Columbia / England/Austria      Known for: sculpture-war memorial, portrait bust

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Ad Code: 3
Felix George Weihs de Weldon
from Auction House Records.
The Bronze edition of the Arlington Marine Corps Memorial maquette
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Vienna, Austria as the son of a prosperous textile manufacturer, Felix de Weldon became a painter and sculptor, whose most notable work is the bronze Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington Cemetery. It remains "the most famous monument of World War II" (Reynolds 161). He completed over 1200 public commissions including portrait busts, and depictions of military heroes, religious and political figures. He is the only artist in the world to have sculpture on all seven continents.
Notable portrait busts by de Weldon include Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, George Washington, and John F. Kennedy.

He was raised in a cultured environment in Vienna where he was enrolled at the age of six in St. Egidius School. There he received his first formal art instruction and was encouraged by a faculty that recognized his unusual talent. At the age of ten, he entered Marchetti College, a college preparatory school where he studied art, history, languages, anatomy and engineering, and graduated in 1925, when he was age 18 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

The year before that he gained attention by winning a national sculpture contest, and soon he was exhibiting at the Paris Salon in Vienna. He also enrolled at the University of Vienna's Academy of Creative Arts and School of Architecture and in 1927, received Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees, and in 1929 at age 22, a Doctor of Philosophy Degree. de Weldon then traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East, and from 1933 to 1937 lived in London, where he opened a studio.

In 1935 Dr. de Weldon finished a commissioned portrait bust of King George V, to celebrate his 25 years as King of England. The work was originally installed at Buckingham Palace, and later was moved to London's National Portrait Gallery where it occupies the unique position of being the only work of a living artist displayed there.

The next year, de Weldon filled a commission of the coronation bust of King Edward VII, and then following the abdication of King Edward, did the coronation bust of King George VI. He also exhibited his work at the Royal Academy of London that year. Additional commissioned works of sculpture for distinguished persons were portrait busts of Princess Alexandra, daughter of the King Alexander of Greece, and Mackenzie-King, Prime Minister of Canada. While traveling to Canada to do King's portrait, he visited New York City and was much taken with life in the United States.

In 1938, he moved to the U.S. and became a citizen in 1945. He served in the American Navy during World War II, and for a time was stationed at the Patuxet Navel Air Station in Maryland. There, having seen Joe Rosenthal's photograph of six American Soldiers raising a flag at Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, he did a painting of the Battle of the Coral Sea. He decided to transfer the image to sculpture but did not have adequate materials, so he made a mixture with floor and ceiling wax and created a model three-feet high. His commanding officer was so taken with the work that he recommended him to other officials, who asked him to create a sculpture nine-feet high of the same subject. This work went on a national tour to raise war bonds and brought de Weldon to the attention of the U.S. Congress, which passed a joint resolution to commission him to do the Iwo Jima Memorial, forty-eight feet high.

Nearly ten years after receiving this commission, he completed the monument, which was placed in Arlington Cemetery and dedicated November 19, 1954. Several years later, the British government expressed pride in de Weldon by making him a knight of the British Crown for his service. From that time, he was "Sir Felix de Weldon".

de Weldon also served on the United States Fine Arts Commission, having first been appointed as President of that Commission in 1950 by President Truman. He was reappointed in 1956 by President Eisenhower and again in 1961 by President Kennedy. From 1952 to 1960, he also served as a teacher and Director of the Newport Rhode Island Academy of Art.

Among his other public memorials for Washington DC are the "equestrian statue of South American Simon Bolivar; the American Red Cross Memorial; the Seabees Monument and the National Guard Monument. In other parts of the country are the Civil War Monument in Fredricksburg, Virginia; the Statue of Benjamin Franklin in Louisville, Kentucky; the Belleau Wood Monument - World War I Memorial at Belleau Wood, France; the Admiral Richard E. Byrd at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica and Washington, DC; the Risen Christ at the Catholic Church of Santa Susanna in Rome, Italy, and the Malaysian National Monument in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia." (http://www.felixdeweldon.com/bio.html)

de Weldon died on June 3rd, 2003, at age 96.


Source:
http://www.felixdeweldon.com/bio.html
Donald Martin Reynolds, "Masters of American Sculpture"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"

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