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Signed Joe Louis Portrait Sculpture by Kris Atkinson

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Joe Louis “The Brown Bomber” The 1976  Portrait Sculpture Bust by Sculptor/Artist, Kris Atkinson.
Kris Atkinson has the distinct honor of being the only sculptor whom Joe Louis ever personally commissioned and sat for to create his portrait sculpture bust. This one-of-a-kind art piece is the only sculpture bearing the personally inscribed in-the-clay signature of 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.
It all came about quite unexpectedly one afternoon in May of 1976 while Mr. and Mrs. Joe Louis were touring the Aladdin Hotel/Casino’s exclusive shopping mall and happened upon me sculpting live on display a portrait bust in the large gallery display window. After a few minutes observation, Mrs. Louis decided she wanted me to create a portait sculpture of her husband “Joe” to be presented him as a birthday present at an upcoming event. They came in to inquire and discuss the details and we arranged an appointment for a sitting suitable to their convenience. A week later they returned and Joe sat for me while I recorded a series of sequential photos and the critical caliper measurements needed to work from. About ten weeks later the sculpting work of Joe’s commissioned portrait was completed however the art piece had yet to undergo the moldmaking and 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.
l would like to make quite clear that l created two differring portrait sculpture versions of Joe Louis within about a five month period. Both of which are true separate one-of-a-kind works. The first was created for Joe Louis himself by personal commission as a birthday gift from his wife, Martha. I was so greatly impressed with Joe Louis that upon completing his commissioned portrait, l deided to create an all new version to have and display as part of my own repetoire art collection. I kept thinking about the opportunity set before me. l already had on hand all of the neccessary reference data and the whole experience was still freshly ingrained in my mind. I was well rehearsed and fully prepared to begin again and to create my own varying one-of-a-kind portrait bust of Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber”. I was full of enthusiam and several months later completed the portrait bust displayed here. Since both works are true to life portraits of “Joe Louis” created to his exacting life-size dimensions, they understandably look similar. However l was determined to vary and differ the works in stance/pose, tooling texture, casting medium, patina finish and more. I must point out there is one prominent additional 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 display on Joe’s personally owned piece. However, as the deadline rush would have it, the foundry transport team arrived at the Las Vegas gallery a week earlier than agreed to securely pack and transport the clay sculpture back to the foundry. One problem, Joe hadn’t quite finished inscribing his signature into the clay brick l’d given him while l was sculpting his portrait and of which I still had yet to drop-set into the bust’s right-front chest area as the final step before being sent to the foundry. This yet needed to be done prior to beginning the moldmaking and casting process. I immediately phoned the foundry production supervisor to discuss the problem and we agreed to go ahead and have the sculpture crated for immediate transport to the foundry with the understanding l would ship the signature-brick to them within the next few days and received, the foundry sculpture staff would then drop-set the inscription into place prior to beginning the moldmaking and casting process. I then phoned Caesars Palace where Joe was contracted as their “Host in Residence” and left word for him of an important matter regarding his sculpture and to please call the gallery asap. 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. He replied that he had the following day fully-free and would work on it and get back to me pronto. Joe did just exactly that and had it delivered to the gallery the following day and I immediately packaged it up and shipped it out to the foundry. The problem seemed solved! However, Despite all,  somehow in the deadline rush, the foundry’s communications got crossed resulting in the portrait bust passing through the moldmaking process without Joe’s signature-brick ever being drop-set-into the clay bust prior to moldmaking thus resulting in the bronze casting being completed absent of Joe’s signature. There was simply no time for the foundry 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 a few blocks away to return it to Joe and to personally inform him of the disappointing news. He was extremely gracious about it all and told me not to worry and that if I like, I could just go ahead and keep it as a momentum. I was amazed and thanked him for his understanding and generosity. This gift was the cherry on top final inspiration for me to complete my own all new and differring One-of-a-Kind original portrait bust of “The Brown Bomber”. I now possessed the actual clay signature inscription of Joe Louis himself. Would it be alright for me to apply it to my sculpture? I felt I first needed to obtain Joe’s permission and stopped by Caesars Palace a few weeks later while Joe was greeting visitors and when I saw he had a free moment, I caught his eye, approached and simply asked him. Once again Joe’s warmth surprised me as he replied, “Absolutely no problem, you go right ahead!” I thanked him sincerely and completed my own all new portrait sculpture version of the “Brown Bomber” by the end of October of 1976. I have kept this portrait as part of my personal collection for the past 42 years.
Kris Atkinson was born on 10/27/1949 in New Kensington, PA USA about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. He is a 1969 graduate of The Ivy School of Professional Art, Pittsburgh, PA. USA. Shortly after graduation at the age of twenty, he completed a continued-study course in sculpture and painting at the Art School of Lucca, Italy. Although having a deep passion for realism, he has always enjoyed versatility of artistic expression in working both in sculpture and painting. His style ranges from traditional realism, surrealism, impressionism, free-form and the non-objective.
In sculpture, his work includes personally commissioned portait sculptures from actual live sittings with sports greats such as as: Joe Louis, Richard Petty and Gordie Howe as well as other celebrated private and public individuals. He has created works in both painting and sculpture for display, limited edition and collection such as his “Beatles Forever” a wall-hanging sculpture which won the First Place Award at Chicago’s 2003 Fest For Beatles Fans and also won the First Place Award in Boxigami Books 2006 publication of “Beatles Art”. This book is a compilation of art from professional artists from all regions of the globe.
• Size: 19″ Tall X 10.5″ Deep X 11″ Wide
• Weight: 33.5 lbs.
• 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
• Signature Inscription: Personally hand signed/inscribed by Joe Louis himself into a clay brick and then drop-set into the clay sculpture prior to moldmaking and casting.. A hand rubbed bronze patina finish was applied to the entire piece and metalic gold-leaf was brushed into Joe’s signature inscription to highlite it’s display.
Kris Atkinson
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Weight 45 lbs
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