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Carl Sandburg College Acquires "Significant" Gift – A Bust of its Namesake

Photo courtesy of Carl Rosenquist
Fingal Rosenquist stands next to her sculpture of Carl Sandburg. The Rosenquist family recently donated the bust to Carl Sandburg College.

A bronze bust Carl Sandburg commissioned of himself has found a new home. It will be displayed in Galesburg at the community college named after the Pulitzer Prize winning writer.

“It‘s mid-century, so it has that kind of spare, modern look to it. It’s kind of elegant,” Lisa Walker said about the bust. Walker coordinates the art program at Carl Sandburg College.

The family of the late artist Fingal Rosenquist donated the piece to the school. Walker said Rosenquist was a well-known sculptor in the eastern U.S.

“It is a significant gift from them (the Rosenquist family) to us,” Walker said.

According Carl Rosenquist, his Aunt Fingal met Sandburg around 1940 at the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia, where she had a show on display and he was giving a lecture. The two remained in touch, and in the late 1950s Sandburg spent about a week at her studio to sit for the sculpture.

Walker believes the fact that Sandburg commissioned the bust makes it a meaningful piece.

“There are a lot of pieces of art done of famous people. That’s just the nature of the beast. But to know that he sat for this one gives it – at least for us here at the college – a more personal touch,” Walker said.

“It should be a very beautiful addition to the campus.”

Credit Courtesy of Carl Sandburg College
Lisa Walker

Walker said the piece is about three feet high and three-and-a-half or four feet wide. She said it weighs at least 350 pounds.

She said the bust has Sandburg sitting as though his arms are on a table. Walker said you would not know it portrays such a well-known and beloved writer.

“It was his choice to be portrayed just as an ordinary person. And I kind of like that,” Walker said.

“He always talked about being a man of the people, and to show himself as just a guy in this sculpture that he himself commissioned  – I think that’s actually really sweet.”

According to the college, the bust was meant for a school in New Jersey but that fell through and it ended up back with Sandburg, who gave it to Rosenquist. She died in 1980. The bust remained in her family, which recently decided the piece should get a new home.

Walker said the college needs to create a pedestal for the bust before it can be displayed. The school also must decide where it will be displayed -- and because it’s bronze, it could be placed either indoors or outdoors.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.