This fall, the Historic Preservation Department’s Physical Documentation class selected an Art Institute masterpiece, Lorado Taft’s Fountain of the Great Lakes, as its subject. The work, commissioned by the Benjamin Ferguson Fund, dates from 1907-1913 and shows five allegorical female figures representing the Great Lakes. Beginning with Superior at the top and ending with Ontario at the base, water is poured from successive shells, mirroring the flow found in nature. The base was designed by Boston architects Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge in 1913. The work originally faced south, but was relocated and reoriented in 1963 during the construction of the Morton Wing and its Modernist park by renowned landscape architect Dan Kiley.
Taft, who was once a professor of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute, developed the design from a work executed with his students in 1902 entitled The Spirit of the Great Lakes. The current SAIC students’ documentation work, which includes photographs, sketches, field notes, and precise measured drawings, will be submitted to the Historic American Buildings Survey for inclusion into the Library of Congress.