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Richards, Myra Reynolds Pioneer Family, 1924


Born in Indianapolis, Myra Reynolds Richards was a prominent sculptor and teacher in Indiana in the early decades of the 20th century. She studied at the John Herron Art Institute in 1902-03, 1908-10, and 1911-13 under J. Ottis Adams, Helene Hibben, Rudolf Schwarz, and visiting professor George Julian Zolnay. She also studied with Isidore Konti in New York City and Charles Despiau at the Acadmie Scandinave in Paris between 1929 and 1931. She was divorced from Hugh R. Richards; they had one son. After she returned from her studies in Paris in 1933, she settled in New York with her mother.

Richards began her career giving private lessons to students in the art of modeling at her studio in the Union Trust Building, from 1918 to 1920. She then became an instructor of anatomy and modeling classes at the Herron Art Institute. When she resigned from Herron in 1929, she was head of the department of anatomy and sculpture quite an accomplishment for a woman artist at that time. She exhibited her work in Indiana and also showed her sculptures in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Paris. She was a member of the Indiana Society of Sculptors, the Art Association of Indianapolis, the Indiana Artists Club, and the Hoosier Salon Patrons Association, and was a charter member of the Woman’s Rotary Club of Indianapolis.

  • Pioneer Family, 1924
  • 62″ x 24″
  • Fountain Square, Indianapolis
  • City of Indianapolis, Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Keywords: sculpture, casts, bronze
  • Subjects: people, men, women, children, boys, girls, hats, tools, weapons, books, memorials, fountains, pioneers

Pioneer Family was commissioned in the early 1920s and dedicated in 1924 as a memorial to former Indiana Congressman Ralph Hill. In 1954, the sculpture was moved to Garfield Park, but the public outcry was such that it was returned in 1969. The present pedestal, base, and fountain were put in place in 1979. However, the sculpture is slated for relocation to a new fountain. In 2003, the Fountain Square neighborhood received a Transportation Enhancement Grant to improve the commercial corridor in that neighborhood. Plans are to replace Richards’s sculpture with a new one made of castiron that will resemble the original, semi-nude water nymph statue called Lady Spray that stood on the site until 1924.

The cast bronze sculpture depicts a family of pioneers – mother, father, son, and daughter. The mother holds a book in her hand, attesting to her ability to read, and appears to stride forward toward the viewer. The father carries a rifle, the son an axe, and the daughter a spindle.

Some Points To Consider

  • Ask students why they think it would have been an accomplishment for Richards to become head of a department of anatomy and sculpture in the 1920s. (Art 4.1.4 and Social Studies 4.1.11)
  • Ask students what expressions they see in the faces of the Pioneer Family. Ask them to describe the mood of this sculpture. (Art 4.3.2)
  • Have students list examples of movement they can find in the figures. (Art 4.3.1)