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Joe Louis Portrait Sculpture Bust by Kris Atkinson
Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber” The 1976 Portrait Sculpture- Statues Bust by Sculptor/Artist, Kris Atkinson.
Kris Atkinson is the only sculptor whom Joe Louis ever personally commissioned to create his portrait bust and for whom Joe ever sat. This work was created to Joe’s exacting life-size proportions during the 1976 Las Vegas gallery sitting. The artist took a series of sequential reference photos and recorded Joe’s exacting caliper measurements. This art piece also proudly displays the one and only personally inscribed-in-the-clay signature by Joe Louis himself. These facts alone inherently define this work to be a true “One-of-a-Kind” Fine Art/Historic Sports Memorabilia Collectors piece.
• Medium: The casting medium of this art piece is “Marbistone”, a gypsum based cold-casting stone w/catalyst hardeners.
• Size: 19″ Tall X 10.5″ Deep X 11″ Wide
• Base: Solid Walnut
• Weight: 33.5 lbs.
• Signature Inscription: Personally hand signed/inscribed by Joe Louis himself into a clay brick which was then drop-set into the sculpture. A hand rubbed bronze patina finish was applied to the entire piece and the signature inscription was then brushed with metalic gold leaf to highlite it’s display.
THE STORY BEHIND THE PORTRAIT:
It all came about quite unexpectedly one afternoon in May of 1976. While Mr. & Mrs. Joe Louis were touring the Aladdin Hotel/Casino’s exclusive shopping mall, they simply happened upon me sculpting a portrait bust in the large display window of the Sculpture Gallery. After a few minutes observation, Mrs. Louis decided she wanted me to create a portait sculpture of her husband “Joe” as a birthday present and they came in to inquire and discuss the details. We arranged an appointment for a sitting suitable to their convenience and a week later they returned. Joe sat for me while I recorded a series of sequential photos and the critical caliper measurements as needed and required to work from. The sculpting of Joe’s commissioned portrait was completed about two and a half months later however the art piece had yet to undergo the moldmaking and the lost wax bronze casting process at the foundry. The planned actual presentation of his completed bronze bust was scheduled for sometime in mid-August at an upcoming honoring ceremonial event.
As the artist, I want to clarify that I created two differring portrait busts of Joe Louis within about a five month period of which each are original One-of-a-Kind works. The first was created for Joe Louis himself by personal commission as a birthday gift from his wife. The second rendition, (photos attached) was created several months later for myself as part of my own personal collection of works. Since both are true to life portrait sculptures of “Joe Louis” created according to his very same exacting life-size dimensions, they understandably appear similar. However, both of which are in fact One-of-a-Kind works of which l determined to vary in stance/pose, tooling texture, casting medium, patina finish and with yet still another major difference between the two works. Missing and void from Joe’s commissioned piece is his actual personally handwritten signature inscription. This was originally planned and slated to be set-in to display on Joe’s personally owned piece. However, during the foundry rush to meet deadlines a communications glitch occurred. The foundry transport team arrived unexpectedly at the gallery a week earlier than arranged and agreed to crate-up and transport the work. Joe hadn’t quite finished inscribing his signature into the clay brick l’d given him and of which I had yet to drop-set into the bust’s right-front chest area. This all needed done prior to going to the foundry to begin the moldmaking and casting process. After a phone conversation with the foundry production supervisor, we agreed to go ahead and have the sculpture crated for immediate transport to the foundry with the understanding that the signature-brick would be mailed to them within the next few days and the foundry sculpture staff would then drop-set the inscription into place prior to the moldmaking and casting process. I phoned Caesars Palace where Joe was contracted as their “Host in Residence” and left word for him of an important call from the gallery regarding his sculpture. He phoned back a few hours later and I explained what had transpired and how we truly needed his signature brick asap to meet the production and presentation deadlines. Joe responded that he had the following day fully-free and would work on it and get back to me pronto. Joe did exactly that and had it delivered to the gallery the following day. I immediately packaged it up and shipped it out to the foundry. Despite all our efforts however, somehow in the deadline rush, the portrait bust past through moldmaking process without Joe’s signature-brick ever being drop-set-into the clay bust and the bronze casting was completed absent his signature. There was simply no time for them to make good on this before the scheduled presentation event. The foundry returned the signature brick to the gallery and I made a visit to Caesars Palace to return it to Joe and personally inform him of the disappointing news. He was amazingly gracious about it all and told me not to worry and that if I like, I could just go hang onto it as a souvenir keepsake. I was amazed and thanked him for his understanding and generosity. This gift was the driving inspiration behind my going it again to recreate for myself an all new and differring One-of-a-Kind original portrait bust of Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber”. I kept thinking about the opportunity set before me. I already had all of the reference data and materials and the entire experience and his portrait details were still yet deeply ingrained into my mind. I was well rehearsed and fully prepared to begin again anew. Plus, in addition to all of this, I also now possessed his actual clay signature inscription. Would it be alright for me to apply it to my sculpture? I felt I first needed to clear this with Joe and stopped by Caesars Palace a few days later while Joe was greeting visitors and when he had a free moment, I approached and asked. He once again surprised me and said, “Absolutely no problem, you go right ahead!” I thanked him sincerely and wasted no time starting right back in to create my own all new and differring portrait sculpture of Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber”. I completed my very own One-of-a-Kind original portrait of Joe Louis by the end of October of 1976 and have kept this portrait as part of my personal collection for the past 42 years.
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