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Rubins, David Kresz Statue of Lincoln, 1963


David Rubins was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He studied in the 1920s at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York City and at the Académie Julian and École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was an assistant to sculptor J. E. Fraser in New York City for seven years. From 1935 until his retirement in 1970 he was an instructor at the Herron Art Institute, which merged with Indiana University in 1967 and became the Herron School of Art. After his retirement, he became an artist-in-residence at Herron. He authored a textbook, The Human Figure, an Anatomy for Artists.

  • Statue of Lincoln, 1963
  • 112″ tall
  • State of Indiana
  • Keywords: sculpture, casts, bronze
  • Subjects: people, men, presidents, books

This statue of young Abraham Lincoln is in the plaza at the east entrance of the State Office Building in downtown Indianapolis. Since there are no early images of Lincoln, Rubins read books—especially Carl Sandburg and Albert Beveridge’s two volume biography—to form his concept for the statue. He produced a 12″-tall model as a preliminary sketch. After receiving the commission, he completed a 46″ working model that was sent to Connecticut to produce a mechanically enlarged model. He assembled the three piece plasticine model in his studio at Herron, where the enormous 9’4″ figure almost touched the skylight. Rubins told the Indianapolis Star Magazine that he spent the summer of 1962 on a tall ladder and platform, reshaping the model and adding the fine details of Lincoln’s youthfulness and angular features. Plasterers from the East Coast came to Indianapolis and made a plaster cast from the reworked model. The cast, again cut in three pieces, was shipped east and molded in bronze. The final statue weighs about a ton.

Some Points To Consider

  • Ask students why this sculpture is an important feature of the State Office Building in Indianapolis. Do they think this is how a young Abraham Lincoln in Indiana might have looked and dressed? (Art 4.1.1)
  • Read the artist’s quotes and help students build an understanding about the artist’s philosophies when creating this work. Ask students which theory the artist’s interpretation was based on: imitationalism, formalism, or emotionalism? (Art 4.4.1)
  • Discuss with students the hardships of sculpting as a career. Rubin studied many years to become a sculptor and was an assistant for seven years. The process to make sculpture is demanding and complex. Many skilled craftsmen must be included in the creation. (Art 4.1.4)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Point out to students how the artist used line and shape to show movement. Play an audio recording of classical music and have students draw lines on paper to indicate the mood created by the music. Explain that artists use lines and shapes the way that musicians use notes and chords.
  • Have students make a sculpture using modeling clay. Remind them they are working in three dimensions and must turn the work as they progress.
  • Allow class time to read reference books or search online for more information about Lincoln in Indiana and the Lincoln Boyhood National Monument in Lincoln City.