Historical Marker #2133, located in Louisville, KY (Jefferson County) remembers the outstanding ambition and skill of sculptor Enid Yandell.
Enid was born in Louisville, Kentucky on October 6, 1869, to Lunsford Yandell, Jr., a prominent physician from Louisville, and Louise, the daughter of a wealthy landowner from Nashville. Her artistic inclinations emerged at a very young age. At the age of four, she modeled a clay figurine of Eve and the biblical serpent as a gift for her mother. Throughout primary and secondary school, she continued to model and ventured into woodcarving as well, receiving training at the age of twelve from Benn Pitman, a famous woodworker from Cincinnati.
Family influences played a strong role in encouraging Yandell’s interest in sculpture. She derived her fascination with anatomy from discussions with her father, and her mother was a talented painter who sold portraits and still lifes for commissions. Growing up, Enid became especially close with her mother, as her father died when she was fifteen, leaving his widow Louise to care for their four children. Through careful thrift and dutiful work, she kept Enid and her younger siblings in school, impressing upon them the great value of education for both boys and girls.
Enid continued to excel academically and artistically, securing admission to the Cincinnati Academy of Art at the age of eighteen, where she completed a four-year art degree in two years. She then began to explore project opportunities in her hometown. Over the succeeding years, she sculpted busts and bas-reliefs of several local and historical figures, including family friend and attorney Reuben T. Durrett, and Kentuckian Revolutionary War officer George Rogers Clark.
In 1891, she applied for a position that would yield one of her most famous projects. The Chicago World’s Fair was to be held in 1893, and its organizers put out advertisements for sculptors who could design the exterior of the Women’s Building. After calling in glowing recommendations from influential clients and family friends, she was accepted, and she moved to Chicago. She and the rest of the assistants, including five other women, worked around the clock for months, under the guidance of master sculptors Lorado Taft and Philip Martiny, to prepare the Women’s Building.
Yandell’s most notable contributions to the building were the caryatids— Greco-style female figures serving as support columns— she designed, for which she won a Gold Designer’s Medal. She alternated two of these designs around the building, twelve of each, for a total of twenty-four caryatids, each reinforced with metal butterflies.
Despite the long hours she spent working on projects for the Fair, Yandell also took advantage of her time in Chicago to complete more side projects, including another one of her defining works. Armed with newfound recognition garnered from her participation in the Women’s Building project, she approached the Filson Club, a Louisville-based historical society, with an idea for a statue of Daniel Boone. The club gave her a $1,500 commission, and Yandell completed the seven-foot statue in 1893. It stood next to the Kentucky Building at the World’s Fair, was cast in bronze in 1906, and now stands in Cherokee Park in Louisville.
Yandell seized upon the momentum from her achievements at the Fair and went on to blaze a long and illustrious career, instead of marrying and settling down, as many expected of her. She studied under master sculptors worldwide and created countless works of art that can still be found around the country.
Around the outbreak of World War I, Yandell chose to focus more on activism and charity. In France, she co-founded an organization that provided meals for the impoverished, joined the Red Cross, and cared for orphans left in the wake of the conflict. She remained with the Red Cross as she returned to the United States in 1915, developing an invaluable indexing system to manage the placement and location of wounded soldiers among various hospitals.
Whether creating art or creating change, Yandell gave her boundless energy and diligent effort to the world. She died in Boston on June 12, 1934, and was buried in her hometown of Louisville, at the Cave Hill Cemetery. Yandell remains globally recognized as a woman of supreme excellence, independence, and kindness.
|Bust of Colonel Reuben T. Durrett, by Enid Yandell||tif / 24.27 MB||Download|