Jo Davidson Sculpture from 1929

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[[Image:012 Jo Davidson Ponca City Bronze Bust 01 aa 12-09-2017.JPG|thumb|right|550px|A sculpture that Davidson completed while in Ponca City has surfaced after 89 years and the mystery of its provenance and the subject of Davidson's portraiture has only deepened. "In 2017, I found out that a previously unknown sculpture by Jo Davidson titled "A Bust Portrait of a Gentleman" was coming up for sale in an international art auction," says Hugh Pickens, curator of Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art that will be opening its doors in Oklahoma in 2020. "I contacted Joseph Gierek at Gierek Art Gallery in Tulsa and asked him to attempt to acquire the bronze on the museum's behalf."]]
 
==A Ponca City Mystery - Who is this Man?==
 
==A Ponca City Mystery - Who is this Man?==
  

Revision as of 18:48, 3 February 2020

A sculpture that Davidson completed while in Ponca City has surfaced after 89 years and the mystery of its provenance and the subject of Davidson's portraiture has only deepened. "In 2017, I found out that a previously unknown sculpture by Jo Davidson titled "A Bust Portrait of a Gentleman" was coming up for sale in an international art auction," says Hugh Pickens, curator of Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art that will be opening its doors in Oklahoma in 2020. "I contacted Joseph Gierek at Gierek Art Gallery in Tulsa and asked him to attempt to acquire the bronze on the museum's behalf."

Contents

A Ponca City Mystery - Who is this Man?

Everyone in Ponca City knows about the artist's studio at the Marland Mansion that EW Marland constructed on the grounds of his "Palace on the Prairie" in the 1920's and many know the story of how the studio came to be constructed for the use of Jo Davidson, one of the leading American sculptors of his time.

According to Jo Davidson's autobiography, "Between Sittings," EW came to France and met with Davidson on one of EW's European trips and visited Davidson at his Paris studio. EW asked Davidson to come to Oklahoma for ten years and embark on vast project to create monumental sculptures depicting the settlement of the American West. This was at the apex of Marland's career as an oilman when he controlled 10% of the world's oil reserves and was one of the wealthiest men in the United States.

According to the story, Davidson had no interest in abandoning his cosmopolitan life in Europe for ten years on the Oklahoma prairie until EW sat down and wrote a check and showed it to Davidson. Davidson supposedly told EW that he was not interested but that if Marland would add another zero to the check and construct him an artists studio, then he might come to Oklahoma for a year or two. That's the story anyway.

In any case, whatever the truth of the matter, Jo Davidson did indeed come to Ponca City in the 1920s and lived and worked in the artist's studio on the grounds of the Marland Mansion for several years. There is even a rumor which was explored in the recent play "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" put on by Ponca Playhouse in 2017, that Davidson and Lydie Marland may have had a relationship.

Among the most famous works that Davidson completed during his stay in Ponca City were the statue of EW seated that is now on display on the town square of Ponca City and the two life size sculptures of Lydie Marland and her brother George that are at the mansion. Davidson also submitted one of the twelve Pioneer Woman models to EW's competition, and although it did not win the competition (losing to Bryant Baker's "Confident") the Pioneer Woman Model submitted by Davidson, titled "Trusting", was said to be EW's personal favorite in the competition.

Now another work that Davidson completed while in Ponca City has surfaced after 89 years and the mystery of its provenance and the subject of Davidson's portraiture has only deepened.

"In 2017, I found out that a previously unknown sculpture by Jo Davidson titled "A Bust Portrait of a Gentleman" was coming up for sale in an international art auction," says Hugh Pickens, curator of Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art that will be opening its doors in Oklahoma in 2020. "I contacted Joseph Gierek at Gierek Art Gallery in Tulsa and asked him to attempt to acquire the bronze on the museum's behalf."

Gierek was successful in acquiring the sculpture but when the bronze was shipped to Ponca City and Pickens opened the box and looked at the life-size bust, he got the surprise of his life. "I looked at the sculpture carefully and saw Jo Davidson's signature inscribed on the bronze. Then I looked more carefully and saw the words 'Ponca City 1929' next to Davidson's signature."

Jo Davidson evidently completed the bronze while he was in residence in Ponca City in 1929 in the studio EW Marland had created for him. But the mystery only deepened. "I cannot identify who the man is," says Pickens. "I have looked at photographs from that period. The subject of the sculpture is not a governor, he is not a mayor of Ponca City, he is not a prominent oil man."

Perhaps he is a wealthy citizen of Ponca City from that period. "It would have been expensive to commission a personal bronze from Jo Davidson in 1929," says Joseph Gierek. "Whoever had this bronze commissioned must have had a lot of money."

"By the way, this bust is a beautiful example of Jo Davidson's work," adds Gierek. "The Pickens' bronze is every bit as accomplished as any of the other commissions that Davidson executed during his lifetime including the famous bronze of Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain or the extremely well known bronze of Will Rogers in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capital that you see in the background in many television news reports with interviews with Senators and Congressmen."

In the hopes that we can identify the subject of Jo Davidson's sculpture and start to trace the sculpture's provenance, we are publishing this story as well of photos of the bronze.

Can anyone in Ponca City identify this man?

About the Author

Hugh and Dr. S. J. Pickens
Dr. Pickens married Hugh Pickens on December 24, 1984 with whom she recently celebrated 32 years of marriage.

Hugh Pickens (Po-Hi '67) is a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon jungle, commissioned microwave communications systems across the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia, and built satellite control stations for Goddard Space Flight Center in Australia, Antarctica, Guam, and other locations around the world. Retired in 1999, Pickens and his wife of 33 years moved from Baltimore back to his hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2005 where he cultivates his square foot garden, mows seven acres of lawn, writes about local history, photographs events at the Poncan Theatre, produces the annual Oklahoma Pride series with his wife at Ponca Playhouse, and recently sponsored the first formal dinner in the Marland Mansion in 75 years. Pickens is presently in the process of planning the construction of an Art Museum in Northern Oklahoma. Pickens can be contacted at hughpickens@gmail.com.

Pickens' Publishing

In 1996, Pickens edited and published My Life In Review: Have I Been Lucky of What?, the memoirs of Jack Crandall, professor of history at SUNY Brockport. Since 2001 Pickens has edited and published “Peace Corps Online,” serving over one million monthly pageviews. Pickens' other writing includes contributing over 2,000 stories to “Slashdot: News for Nerds,” and articles for Wikipedia, and “Ponca City, We Love You”. Pickens has written the following articles available on his wiki at Research and Ideas.

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Phillips 66

Conoco and Phillips 66 announced on November 18, 2001 that their boards of directors had unanimously approved a definitive agreement for a "merger of equals". The merged company, ConocoPhillips, became the third-largest integrated U.S. energy company based on market capitalization and oil and gas reserves and production. On November 11, 2011 ConocoPhillips announced that Phillips 66 would be the name of a new independent oil and gasoline refining and marketing firm, created as ConocoPhillips split into two companies. ConocoPhillips kept the current name of the company and concentrated on oil exploration and production side while Phillips 66 included refining, marketing, midstream, and chemical portions of the company. Photo: Hugh Pickens all rights reserved.

For nearly 100 years oil refining has provided the bedrock of Ponca City's local economy and shaped the character of our community. Today the Ponca City Refinery is the best run and most profitable of Phillips 66's fifteen worldwide refineries. The purpose of this collection of reports is to provide a comprehensive overview of Phillips 66's business that documents and explains the company's business strategy and execution of that strategy.

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