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Bust documents creative process for sculpture of W. E. B. DuBois

Plaster maquette of W. E. B. DuBois by Walker Hancock. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
Plaster maquette of W. E. B. DuBois by Walker Hancock. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
A plaster maquette of a bust of W. E. B. DuBois has been donated to the Harry Ransom Center. The bust, which was sculpted by Walker Hancock (1901–1998), documents a step in the creative process for the final marble sculpture, which resides in Memorial Hall at Harvard University.

A plaster maquette is a model for a finished sculpture that enables the artist to visualize and test shapes and ideas before producing a full-scale sculpture. (It’s analogous to a cartoon or sketch for a painter.)

The DuBois bust was commissioned in 1993 by the Harvard University president and fellows and the Department of Afro-American studies. DuBois was the co-founder of the NAACP and the first African-American student to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895.

Walker Hancock was an American sculptor who was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1989 and the Medal of Freedom in 1990. His notable works include the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial (1950–1952) in Philadelphia and additions he created for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., including Christ in Majesty (1972), the bas relief over the High Altar.

The plaster maquette was donated to the Ransom Center by Hancock’s daughter, Deanie Hancock French.

The Center holds busts of many writers, including Ezra Pound, James Joyce, T. E. Lawrence, Tom Stoppard, William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and many more. Several busts can be seen in the lobby of the Ransom Center and in the reading room on the second floor.