Perhaps you were wondering about that Odysseus tied to the mast on our blog header.
Well, it comes from “The Iliad and the Odyssey” by Evelyn O. Wilson (1915-2006). That’s a narrative group of more than two dozen grey terracotta sculptures, each about sixteen inches in height, executed in the early 1990s.
These works, along with paintings by the sculptor’s husband, noted American artist Ben Wilson (1913-2001), have been on permanent display in the RU Classics department since 2006.
The artists’ daughter, Joanne Wilson Jaffe, and the Ben and Evelyn Wilson Foundation, gave Rutgers Classics this unusually generous gift.
In fact, Rutgers-New Brunswick is building a rich collection of Wilsoniana, with other pieces by the two artists in its Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, its Art Library, and (most recently) in the lobby of its Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.
There’s a short film entitled “The Turbulent Ground” that Florida fine arts and antiques dealer Don Elder has made about Ben Wilson. “It’s terrific”, said Joanne Jaffe, “and offers rare insight into Ben’s thinking and paintings.” Wilson was a painter of the Abstract Expressionist school and a veteran of the WPA.
But of the Homeric sculptures at Rutgers Classics, why not let Evelyn Wilson tell the story in her own words?
As it happens, Rutgers was to receive also the Canterbury Tales and Mother Goose cycles. But keep reading–we’ve only just started!
So what happened next?
To view any piece from the group of 26 sculptures in Evelyn Wilson’s Iliad and Odyssey series, point and click at one of the following thumbnails…
And now for the pieces by Ben Wilson in the RU Classics collection…
Evelyn Wilson’s book of memoirs and sculptures, The Prince of Whales and Other Tales (featured above), was compiled as a gift by her daughter Joanne Wilson Jaffe, who is herself a ceramist. Their work can be viewed online at The Gallery of Functional Art. Nancy Rica Schiff is the photographer who produced the later portraits of Evelyn and Ben Wilson. Don Elder photographed the Iliad and Odyssey sculptures.
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Ben and Evelyn Wilson were good friends of my mother Jean C. and my father John L.Thompson.My father was born in Nutley and attended Rutgers on a football scholarship . Shortly after school he enlisted in the R.O.C.T. and leading the 29th division , stormed Omaha beach on D-day .He spent 2 years in Europe and came away with several decorations including the Silver star of Valor and the French Croix de guerre. My brother Jeffery P.Thompson is also a Rutgers alumni and in the 70’s Q.B.ed with the Knights.Ben and Evelyn were very dear to me and will always be an inspiration to my art and in my life.My father died in ’94 and my Mother 4 years ago.I have Ben’s cashmire long-coat and gloves…
Both Evelyn and Ben Wilson were our friends for many years. Each had a great influence on me in my desire to express my art in clay. Even today, comments and thoughts come back to life when making certain pieces. Whether in the form or funtion of my work, their valued support continues to be invaluable. Few people have touched my life in this way and I will be grateful daily for their friendship and knowledge.