An artistic legacy

My January 17 column focused on the literary legacy at Kendall Young Library, this week I will explore the artistic legacy that can be found in the library building and in the town of Webster City.

The artistic legacy starts with the structure of the building itself. While comparable library buildings funded by Andrew Carnegie were constructed for around $10,000 in the early 1900s, the Kendall Young Library was built with a budget of $50,000. This allowed for the elaborate and artistic details evident in the building. Artistry was interwoven into the construction of the building, from the Terrazo and mosaic floors, to the African marble columns, and to the stain glass windows and dome. Jane Young also left part of her estate to procure art specifically for the building, originally housed in the Jane Young Room. The two statues, “The Venus of Milo” and “The Minerva of the Vatican” were imported from Italy especially for the library.

Alfred Montgomery is one of the artists to come out of Webster City. Raised on a farm south of Webster City when the area was being settled, he was a well-known artist of rural paintings, such as “Down on the Farm,” a barnyard scene with several animals that was sold at an art exhibition at Paris in 1900. He bragged that his paintings of corn were so realistic that he could fool a pigeon with them. A non-conformist who was described as feisty and energetic, Montgomery was known to give away as many of his paintings as he sold. Montgomery eventually moved to California and established a ranch he named “Nowhere.” For those interested in seeing his work, one of his paintings of corn hangs in the library near the Reference Desk.

The sculptures by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle are also well-known to library patrons. Abastenia, or Teenie as she was known to her family, was born in Webster City in 1878 and while she only lived here for a short time as a child, she has left a lasting legacy here. A well-known and celebrated sculptor in her time, Abastenia was at one time the youngest sculptor represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was praised for finding beauty in common, everyday events. Most of the 23 sculptures Abastenia gifted to the library are on display at the top of the stairs at the entrance to the building. One of her sculptures was also recently featured on the popular PBS show Antiques Roadshow. The link to the episode is posted on our Facebook page, and the plaster version of the piece can be seen in the display at the top of the stairs.

We invite you to visit the Kendall Young Library to enjoy the beauty of the building and the artwork on display.