Memorializing John F. Kennedy in bronze

We see them everywhere – tributes to the men and women who have played a part in our history. We see new statues going up and old ones going down. But sometimes we don’t even think about the art behind the image.

Ivan Schwartz is a classically trained sculptor who turned his art into a business when he and his brother Elliot opened their EIS studio in Brooklyn, New York, in 1977.

From Anne Frank at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans to Abraham Lincoln seated in Gettysburg, to all the women pictured at the Virginia Women’s Monument, the work of Schwartz’s team can be seen everywhere.

“We’ve done a lot of Lincoln and Washington,” said Schwartz, “and now the sculptures of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

“I often have to sit down and think, ‘Well, where is this going to start? “”

CBS News Washington chief correspondent Chip Reid asked, “There’s that famous quote from Michelangelo or someone else: ‘You just pulled yourself out of marble, everything that doesn’t look like not to the person. “It sounds so simple. not it’s simple!”

“No, you have to think about what you want to do,” Schwartz said. “And you have to think really hard, because we’re going to end up with an inanimate object.”

Schwartz works in a style similar to that of Michelangelo and many other great sculptors: he oversees the work of a team of skilled artists: “These guys can do what I did much better than ever. It just starts with the vision. I leave the real world and step into a little fantasy world where I’m like, “What are you going to do with this person who has been portrayed so many times before? “”

At Studio EIS, Ivan Schwartz (center) oversees the work of artists creating monumental statues.

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A monumental hurdle for this particular commission – a sculpture of President John F. Kennedy, a new addition to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on its 50th anniversary, a venture funded by billionaire investor and philanthropist David Rubenstein.

Schwartz said: “When you look at pictures of Kennedy he was smiling, it was the great new president who was on TV. And we saw him all the time.”

Young, handsome and energetic, the public got to know his face, his gestures long before he was immortalized by his assassination in 1963. Thus, any physical representation of him had to be realistic.

“The customer – in this case the Kennedy Center – all they told us was they wanted something affordable,” Schwartz said. “So we all bang our heads together and then start looking at the pictures.”

Debra Schwartz is Project Director at Studio EIS and is the sister of Ivan and Elliot. She said to Reid, “I’d say I looked at 33,000 photographs. And I watched movies, Kennedy videos. I went through everything about Kennedy – his jacket, his hair, his tie, his handkerchief in his pocket, his shoes, his socks, his cufflinks … very meticulous. “

And it is this measure of study and observation that makes Schwartz’s statues particularly relevant.

Ivan said: “Now none of us knew that, but as we started watching movies he was constantly touching the button of his jacket. We almost started laughing every time we saw him, because:” Oh, look, there he is again! ‘”

The terracotta button.

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When the idea came up, the manufacturing began, starting from the clay foundation …

Finishes on the model of a statue of President John F. Kennedy, to be cast in bronze.

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… make the mold and pour the bronze …


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until the finishes. Each step of the process is up to an artist.


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Ivan said: “Not every day, but some days we can make sculptures of people who have meant something, who have done something, whose contribution to our lives, American life, has made sense. these people become symbols for future generations. “

President Kennedy’s daughter Caroline echoed this in her remarks at the recent unveiling: “I can’t wait to see how visitors experience President Kennedy’s humanity when they see this work of art.

Now Schwartz and his team can sit down and hope that this piece will be received the way it was designed – a familiar portrayal of a man who meant so much to so many people.

A statue of President John F. Kennedy at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC

CBS News

For more information:

Story produced by Amy Wall. Publisher: Emanuele Secci.

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