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    Texas | Features | People

    TEXAS SCULPTORS

    POMPEO LUIGI COPPINI
    (1870-1957)

    By John Troesser

    Coppini's Life >
    Coppini's Works in Texas >

    Pompeo Coppini, sculptor, was born in Italy in 1870, and grew up in Florence where he was a student at the Academia di Belle Arte. He graduated in 1889 and in 1896 he immigrated to the United States. He had very little money and no knowledge of English but these setbacks didn’t prevent him from getting married in 1898. His wife was Elizabeth di Barbieri of Connecticut. Coppini became a U.S. citizen in 1902.

    Coppini had heard of German Sculptor Frank Teich's search for an apprentice sculptor, and so he moved to Texas in 1901. Teich needed help filling orders for memorials to Confederate heroes. The political climate had softened by that time and statues to Confederate heroes and common soldiers were being erected at a near-furious pace. Coppini was commissioned to model a statue of Jefferson Davis and four Confederate soldiers for a monument on the capitol grounds. The monument won Coppini such praise that he knew he could make it on his own without the .75 cents per hour he was making from Teich. The two men soon parted company and occasionally bid against one another for commissions.
    Firing Line statue by Pompeo Coppini in Victoria Texas
    “Firing Line” c. 1912 DeLeon Plaza in Victoria. Commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. TE Photo.
    Coppini Littlefield Fountain Memorial
    Littlefield Fountain Memorial (1920-28)
    TE photo, 2009
    Other commissions followed, one of them being the Littlefield Fountain Memorial (1920-28) at the University of Texas.

    Some of Coppini's other Texas works include a statue of Rufus C. Burleson at Baylor University in Waco (1903), the bas-relief monument at Sam Houston’s grave at Huntsville (1910), a Texas Revolutionary monument at Gonzales that same year, the unique Confederate soldier at Victoria (1912) and busts of Generals Johnston, Lee, Jackson and President Jefferson Davis, for the Confederate monument at Paris, Texas (1903).

    Another group statue called Victims of the Galveston Flood (1903-4) was given to the University of Texas, Austin.

    Coppini also modeled the equestrian monument to Terry's Texas Rangers (the Eighth Texas Cavalry) on the Capitol grounds (1905-07) and the Charles H. Noyes Memorial in Ballinger (1918-19). See the poignant story of The Most Photographed Statue in Ballinger, Texas.

    Other works include The John H. Reagan Memorial in Palestine (1911) and the bronze doors of the Scottish Rite Temple in San Antonio (dedicated 1926).
    Coppini Statue Terry's Rangers, Austin Texas Capitol Grounds
    Terry's Rangers on Capitol Grounds
    TE photo
    Coppini lived and worked in his studio in San Antonio until 1916, when he moved to Chicago. Three years later he moved to New York City to oversee the casting of the Littlefield Fountain Memorial.

    He was assisted on this and other projects by sculptor Waldine Tauch, who began studying with Coppini in 1910 and continued to work with him as his colleague and “foster daughter” until his death.
    Alamo Cenotaph, San Antonio Texas
    “Spirit of Sacrifice” c. 1939
    The Cenotaph to the Heroes of the Alamo
    Pompeo Coppini at work - portrait
    Pompeo Coppini at work.
    Photo Courtesy The Texas Collection, Baylor University
    In 1937 Coppini established a studio at 115 Melrose Place in San Antonio in order to work on “Spirit of Sacrifice” cenotaph to the heroes of the Alamo (1937-39) which stands on Alamo Plaza. One of the other sculptors hoping to get this commission was Gutzon Borglum – the man (with son Lincoln) who went on to carve the presidential faces at Mt. Rushmore.

    Other Centennial commissions awarded to Coppini were a U. S. commemorative half-dollar in 1934 and the Hall of State bronze statues of Austin, Rusk, Travis, Fannin, Lamar, and Houston (1935-36) in Dallas. Coppini in 1941 was awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts degree by Baylor University and even Italy acknowledged his work in America by decorating him a Commendatore" of the Crown of Italy in 1931.
    P. Coppini Sculptor Carriage Stone
    The carriage stone from Coppini's home was rescued and placed in San Antonio's San Jose Burial Park. TE Photo
    Coppini’s work in the United States consists of thirty-six public monuments, sixteen portrait statues, and about seventy-five portrait busts. His attitude toward art and sculpture was critical of modernism. He felt that sculpture in America could be saved by carefully screening art students for talent.

    He emphasized the importance of individual instruction from experienced artists – a belief he put in practice by mentoring Waldine Tauch.

    Coppini was not without his critics. Texas author J. Frank Dobie is quoted as saying: “As for Coppini – he has littered up Texas with his monstrosities….”

    It is not known what Coppini thought of Dobie’s writing.

    Coppini was head of the art department of Trinity University in San Antonio for two years during WWII and in 1945 he and Tauch co-founded the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in 1950.

    Coppini died in San Antonio in 1957, survived by his wife.

    He was buried in a crypt of his own design in San Antonio. Coppini and Tauch's work is exhibited today in their former studio.

    © John Troesser

    Coppini's Works in Texas:

    Coppini Grave
    Relief on Coppini's grave
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson
    Coppini’s Works in Texas (listed chronologically)
    1901 Confederate Monument Capitol Grounds, Austin
    1903 Confederate Monument Paris, Texas
    1904 Woodmen of the World - Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston
    1905 Burleson Memorial, Baylor University Campus, Waco
    1907 Terry’s Texas Rangers Memorial Capitol Grounds, Austin
    1910 Come and Take It! Gonzales, Texas
    1911 Sam Houston Memorial Oakwood Cemetery, Huntsville Texas
    1911 James W. Throckmorton (former) McKinney Courthouse Lawn, McKinney Texas
    1911 John H. Reagan Memorial – Palestine, Texas
    1912 Stephen F. Austin Texas State Cemetery, Austin
    1912 Firing Line DeLeon Plaza, Victoria, Texas
    1912 George O’Brien Millard (Pipkin Park), Beaumont, Texas
    1914 Queen of the Sea - downtown Corpus Christi
    1915 Joanna Troutman - Texas State Cemetery, Austin
    1919 Charles Noyes Memorial, Courthouse lawn Ballinger, Texas
    1919 Julius A. Wolters, Shiner, Texas
    1919 Lawrence Sullivan Ross Texas A & M University Campus
    1922 Mr. and Mrs C.H. YOE, Cameron, Texas
    1933 Littlefield Memorial Fountain University of Texas Campus Including free standing statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, James Hogg, Albert Sidney Johnston, John H. Reagan and Woodrow Wilson
    1936 Prospero Bernardi - Fair Park, Dallas
    1938 R.E.B. Baylor Baylor Campus, Waco
    1939 “Spirit of Sacrifice” (aka The Cenotaph), San Antonio
    1946 Genius of Music (w Waldine Tauch) Brackenridge Park San Antonio
    1953 Coppini Memorial Sunset Memorial Park (Coppini’s gravesite) 1955 George Washington - University of Texas campus, Austin
    1972 (posthumously installed) George W. Brackenridge 3501 Broadway San Antonio*
    *Sculpted by Coppini in the 1930s, the statue was cast by Waldine Tauch and due to a bureaucratic fiasco, it wasn’t installed until 1972
    Coppini’s Works in Texas (by location)

    Austin:
    Capitol Grounds: Texas Confederate Monument, Terry’s Texas Rangers
    Texas State Cemetery: Stephen F. Austin, Joanna Troutman
    University of Texas: George Washington Littlefield Fountain (including statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, James Hogg, Albert Sidney Johnston, John H. Reagan and Woodrow Wilson
    Beaumont: George O’Brien Millard Beaumont (Pipkin Park)
    Ballinger: Charles Noyes Memorial
    Cameron: Mr. and Mrs C.H. YOE
    College Station: Lawrence Sullivan Ross, Burleson Memorial (Texas A & M Campus)
    Corpus Christi: Queen of the Sea
    Dallas: Prospero Bernardi Fair Park
    Galveston: Woodmen of the World (Lakeview Cemetery)
    Gonzales: Come and Take It!
    Huntsville: Sam Houston Memorial Monument (Oakwood Cemetery)
    McKinney: James Throckmorton (former courthouse lawn)
    Palestine: John H. Reagan Memorial
    Paris: Confederate Monument (downtown) Paris
    San Antonio:
    “Spirit of Sacrifice” (aka The Cenotaph),
    Genius of Music (w Waldine Tauch) Brackenridge Park San Antonio,
    Coppini Memorial Sunset Memorial Park (Coppini’s gravesite),
    George W. Brackenridge 3501 Broadway San Antonio*
    Winn Family Gravesite, City Cemetery #1
    Shiner: Julius Wolters
    Victoria: Firing Line (DeLeon Plaza)
    Waco: (Baylor University Campus) R.E.B. Baylor Memorial and Burleson Memorial

    Corpus Christi, Texas - Fountain, Queen of the Sea, Confederate Monument by Pompeo Coppini
    Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, 2010
    "Queen of the Sea" Fountain in Corpus Christi
    John H. Reagan Memorial, Palestine, Texas
    Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, 2009
    The John H. Reagan Memorial
    Coppini Statues - Sam Houston Gravesite Huntsville TX
    Sam Houston Memorial Monument (Oakwood Cemetery)
    Coppini Sam Houston Scottish Rite Temple Door SanAntonioTX
    Sam Houston - Scottish Rite Temple Door
    Coppini George Washington Scottish Rite Temple Door SanAntonioTX
    George Washington - Scottish Rite Temple Door
    Coppini San Antonio Newspaper Building Doorway
    Frieze over the doorway of the San Antonio Express News Building in San Antonio.
    Gonzales Texas  - Texas Revolutionary monument “Come and Take It”
    Gonzales, Texas
    TE photo, 2009

    Related Topics:
    People | Monuments and Statues | Texas

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