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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)

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

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