Posts Tagged ‘The Answer’

The dream of sculptor Roger Noble Burnham

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Sculptor Roger Noble Burnham stands by his bust of horticulturalist Luther Burbank . (Los Angeles Public Library)

By Allan R. Ellenberger

The noted sculptor, Roger Noble Burnham, may not be a familiar name, but if you attended the University of Southern California, or are a fan of silent film star Rudolph Valentino, you are aware of his more famous works. Burnham created the well-known “Tommy Trojan,” the most popular unofficial mascot at USC. The following year, he was commissioned to create “Aspiration,” a memorial to the late Rudolph Valentino at Hollywood’s De Longpre Park.

Students gather around the base of the Tommy Trojan statue at USC in front of the Bovard Auditorium. The bronze plaque depicting Helen of Troy on the east side of the base is visible. (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

Burnham’s “Aspiration” — a tribute to silent film star Rudolph Valentino at De Longpre Park.

Other of Burnham’s works include the 12-foot bronze statue of Gen. MacArthur in McArthur Park; “The Spirit of ‘98” at the Los Angeles National Cemetery; the Scholarship Medal for the University of California, and he was a collaborator on the Astronomer’s Monument which  stands in front of the Griffith Observatory.

Memorial to General MacArthur. (By Jontintinjordan)

Burnham was born in Hingham, Massachusetts on August 8, 1876. With a Harvard degree in art history and architecture, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and toured with a theatrical company. Afterward, he studied sculpture with Caroline Hunt Rimmer, taught modeling at Harvard’s School of Architecture, and spent time in Rome and Hawaii before arriving moving to Los Angeles in 1925. There, he taught at Otis Art Institute until 1932. In addition, Burnham, a religious man, designed Christmas displays for the windows of a downtown department store.

But for all his works, two of his most beloved projects never were realized. One was to create a 160-foot “Neustra Senora, La Reina de Los Angeles,” that would overlook the city from the Hollywood hills. The other was to sculpture a colossal figure of Christ, to be sited above the Hollywood sign; it was entitled, “The Answer.”

The statue would depict a benevolent Christ with out swept arms and a gentle smile, standing 150 feet tall on a quarter-sphere 60 feet high—equivalent to a 19-story building. It would be finished in fused gold and cost about $250,000. To pay for his dream, Burnham spoke at local churches and planned to sell replicas of several sizes of his statue across the country. To envision his dream, in May 1951, the Los Angeles Times created a composite photo of the planned messianic statue.

Burnham’s vision for the total 210 foot “The Answer,” which he hoped would be placed on Mount Lee, overlooking Hollywood. The tower on the right is 300 feet tall and the letters of the Hollywood sign are 30 feet tall. (Los Angeles Times)

Sadly, for Burnham, his dream was never realized.

Roger Noble Burnham lived another decade and died in Los Angeles on March 14, 1962 at age 85.

 

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