Astronomers Monument is a product of the great economic depression of the 1930s, when New Deal initiatives created federally-funded work programs to employ skilled workers at a time when they would otherwise remain idle and without income. One of the first of these programs, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), began in December 1933. Soon thereafter, in cooperation with the Los Angeles Park Commission, PWAP commissioned a sculpture project on the grounds of the new Observatory (which was under construction).
Using a design by local artist Archibald Garner and materials donated by the Womens’ Auxiliary of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Garner and five other artists sculpted and cast the concrete monument and figures. Each artist was responsible for sculpting one astronomer; one of the artists, George Stanley, was also the creator of the famous “Oscar” statuette. The other artists involved were Arnold Forester, Djey el Djey, Gordon Newell, Roger Noble Burnham.
The six astronomers featured on the monument are among the most influential and important in history. The six figures represent the Greek astronomer Hipparchus (about 125 B.C.), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Isaac Newton (1642-1727), and John Herschel (1738-1822). Albert Einstein was considered for inclusion, but planers ultimately decided it would be inappropriate to feature someone still alive (the monument was completed in 1934; Einstein died in 1955). [sources: The Living New Deal & Griffith Observatory]
May 10th, 2019