Bronx County Courthouse
Joe created this sculptured group in limestone. It is on the Bronx County Courthouse, also known as the Mario Merola Building, in New York City. Joe’s note on the back of a photo by DeWitt Ward reads: ‘Bronx County Court House’ and ‘located on Walton Ave side of street Concourse Village’.
Another photo of the grouping is labeled “Justice” by Joe with this description: “Limestone panel 12’ x 18’ on the city and Municipal Court House Lafayette St. N.Y.C. William (illegible) and Matthew (illegible), architects.” The architects' names are not legible. The building was constructed between 1931 and 1934.
Some descriptions credit Joe entirely for this work but a history of the Mario Merola Bronx County Building has this paragraph; “The tall rectangular block sculptures by Adolph A. Weinman are largely allegorical, paying homage to the history of government by law through the ages, beginning with Egypt, Greece, and Rome. They were created with the assistance of collaborators and sculpted by Weinman and his associates, Edward F. Sanford, George Snowden and Joseph Kiselewski.”
With further study we’ll discover Joe’s relationship with Weinman who was older than Joe and a renowned architectural sculptor.
This is a bust of Joe’s wife Adeline. He tells the story of meeting her in his autobiography.
Shortly after I had come back from abroad I visited my family in Minnesota. One day after church my brother and a mutual friend, John Wrobel, decided to drive to St. Joseph, a small town about forty miles away to get some liquor (moonshine in those days). We went to a bar and had been drinking quite heavily when John suggested driving to Cold Spring, eleven miles further, to meet a very attractive girl, Adeline Peters, whom he very much admired.
My brother and I did not feel greatly inclined to go but since it was his car we did not have much choice. We each bought a gallon of good liquor that they had there and went our merry way. At our destination we did not dare to leave the liquor in the open car and each one, carrying his gallon on his shoulders, we entered the Peters’ house drunk and silly.
That evening they gave Adeline a going away party since she was leaving the next day for New York where she was employed in a laboratory. Hearing she would be in New York, I asked for her address so I could call and meet with her after my return there. Her parents felt rather uncomfortable about our presence in that condition. Even the Minnesota newspaper with an article and photos about me and my work lying on the table did not help to diffuse the bad impression I created. Her parents also were worried about my meeting her in New York because she was engaged to marry a nice well-to-do young man of whom they highly approved.
Joe and Adeline married in 1932 without her parents knowledge. Adeline passed away in 1954.
Joe and Adeline have an adventure in Paris
In 1953 my wife and I took a trip to Europe visiting Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and France, staying for some time in Paris. An interesting restaurant was highly recommended to us, so we went there. It was difficult to find and the entrance looked rather drab. We were escorted upstairs into a strange but elegant setting . It was very crowded and the tables were close together. Next to us sat a nice looking rather heavy man with five nondescript plain looking men. The heavy man was jolly, told stories and jokes and paid compliments to Adeline. The others remained quiet, sometimes politely smiling at the heavy man's jokes.
The food lent itself to jokes, since it was rather unusual, to say the least, in appearance. The rolls, the small noodles floating in the soup, the potatoes, the dessert were all in the shape of male or female sex parts. A goat was squeezing between the tables nibbling at the guests salads. At the exit was a large bell with a hammer in the same phallic shape and the ladies were asked before leaving to ring it - without gloves. During the dinner the restaurant owner had come several times with his guest book to the pleasant man next to us but he refused every
time to sign it. After he had left the owner asked us if we knew who he was. We had never seen the man before. It was King Farouk of Egypt and the men with him were his body guards. The next day we read in the newspapers of the King’s arrival in Paris.
The Comforting Angel & Christ Prays in Gethsemane, Christ the King Church, Browerville
This sculpture, which is located in Joe’s hometown of Browerville, MN, consists of two statues; Christ on his knees and an angel. Joe called these statues “The Comforting Angel” and "Christ Prays in Gethsemane." An undated Browerville Blade newspaper clipping of Joe with these statues says that he presented them to St. Joseph’s (now Christ the King) at the church’s Golden Jubilee in 1932. There is a granite plaque in the stonework surrounding the statues that reads “Donated by Gertrude John as a Memorial to her beloved husband Joseph. Modeled by Joseph Kiselewski IX 4 1932.”
“Uncle Joe was very proud of this work of art because he was born and
raised here.” Barb Noland says. Gertrude John was also Barb's paternal great grandmother.
The statues are surrounded by stone work done by local artisans.
In 2019, a series of previously undiscovered site illustrations and landscaping sketches were found at Christ the King Church. They can be found in the Drawings section of the web site.
George Rogers Clark
Joe created this limestone bas relief for what is now the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana in 1930 to 1934. It depicts a young George Rogers Clark receiving his orders to attack the British outposts on the Western frontier from Patrick Henry, according to the National Park Service.
“On February 25, 1779, Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark, older brother of William Clark, led the capture of Fort Sackville and British Lt. Governor Henry Hamilton as part of the Illinois Campaign, which lasted from 1778 to 1779. The march of Clark's men from Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River in mid-winter and the subsequent victory over the British remains one of the most memorable feats of the American Revolution,” according to Wikipedia.
“When you walk into the building you have to turn around and look up,” Barb Noland, who visited the park in the summer of 2021, said. “It is placed above the door way and under the words “OUR COUNTRY”.
The building also features several statues and a series of seven murals for the building by Ezra Winter.
This is a 70 inch long sea horse fountain sculpted by Joe Kiselewski. There are apparently two copies of it, one of which can be seen at Brookgreen Gardens at Murrells Inlet in South Carolina’s Low Country. Brookgreen Gardens is one of America’s premier sculpture gardens.
Arcadia Auction Results writes that, “The present work is one of two known examples cast by Gargani Foundry in 1937. In a letter dated March 25, 1942, Joseph Kiselewski said that the sea horse was modeled in his New York studio over a period of several years and completed a few months prior to the acquisition of one of the casts by Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. Mr. Kiselewski also mentions that four silver painted cement ponies were displayed in a fountain pool at the 1939 World’s Fair. At the close of the Fair the cement versions were destroyed.”
Note: Gargani Foundry was a lost-wax bronze foundry in Brooklyn started by Eugene Gargani in 1927.
The photo of the Brookgreen Garden plaque, taken by Dolores Irsfeld, says, “A versatile sculptor, Kiselewski had extensive training. Four years as an assistant to Lee Lawrie allowed him to develop a standard of perfection evident in his clear-cut designs and precise detail. Sea Horse was one of the four castings commissioned for the fountain pools in the Radio Corporation of America display at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.”
General Casimir Pulaski
“This is a ten foot bronze statue of Casimir Pulaski designed in Manhattan, New York City. General Pulaski is in a park called Pulaski Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "There are many other parks called this so it was hard for me to figure out where this statue actually was. I called a librarian who helped me find it,” Barb Noland said.
Casimir Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski was a Polish nobleman and soldier who is called the father of the American cavalry, according to Wikipedia. Following the Polish defeat by the Russians he immigrated to the Americas at the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin. He proceeded to save the life of George Washington, became a general in the Continental Army, formed the Pulaski Cavalry Legion, and was killed at the battle of Savannah.
Joe Kiselewski’s first statue of Pulaski for Milwaukee was destroyed in 1931 when his studio was consumed by fire. Through determination and grit equal to his subject, Kiselewski finished a second statue. This is from his autobiography:
“We ran very much behind schedule with the Pulaski statue. The date for the unveiling was set and could not be changed because too large a crowd was expected, too many people and officials from all parts of the country, and a parade by the Polish community planned. Governor Lafayette was to give the main address. The statue arrived in Milwaukee one day before the ceremony. A crew with derricks was waiting for it and just one hour before the unveiling the statue was placed upon its base. 35,000 people attended its inauguration.”
United States Department of Commerce
The 11 by 45 foot limestone Fisheries pediment was put in place in the United States Department of Commerce building in Washington, D.C. in 1934. Joe, along with James Earle Fraser, were the sculptors, according to the Art Inventories Catalogue of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. John Donneley was the carver.
“A pediment is an architectural element found particularly in classical, neoclassical, and baroque architecture. It consists of a gable, usually of a triangular shape, placed above the horizontal structure of the entablature, typically supported by columns. The tympanum, the triangular area within the pediment, is often decorated with relief sculpture,” according to Wikipedia.
Here are some examples of other pediments from Wikipedia. Note that these pediments are lacking the tympanum or decorative sculpture.
“This giant thirty foot high and 140 feet wide sundial was made by Joseph Kiselewski and was called ‘Time’. It was was located in the Business Systems and Insurance building, Rose Court, Communications and Business Zone of the 1939 - 1940 Worlds Fair in Queens, New York,” Barb Noland writes.
The opening slogan of the Fair was "Dawn of a New Day” and Kiselewski’s sculpture represented Sunrise and Sunset with the two connected by the curving lines of Time. Eric Gurgler, an architect, assisted Kiselewski with the sundial. Gurgler was the architet for the famed Oval Office at the White House.
Like Kiselewski’s other World’s Fair sculpture, the Sea Horse fountain, Time was destroyed when the Fair was over.
The 1939 - 1940 Worlds Fair was open for two seasons and averaged 206,000 visitors daily.
The back of this studio photograph reads "Gate Post, Size 31" x 23" x 14.5" February 23rd, 1939. The photography studio was De Witt Ward on 227 West Thirteenth St, New York City.
American Defense Service Medal
Kiselewski designed this medal, which was sculpted by Lee Lawrie, for the U.S. Armed Forces. The medal was used from September 8, 1939, and December 7, 1941.
Barb Noland found this portrait of Joe, by Deane Keller, in the digital collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Keller painted this large 30” by 25” oil on canvass in 1936. According to the National Gallery, the National Academy of Design is the owner.
Kiselewski and Keller were both born in 1901 and they both won the Prix de Rome fellowship in 1926. They must have been close friends since Keller painted a full length portrait of Joe while they were together at the American Academy in Rome. You can see that wonderful portrait at this website’s section on the American Academy.
When the two men completed their Roman fellowship Keller went to teach at his alma mater Yale and Kiselewski established a sucessful studio in New York. Keller was teaching there when he created this portrait. While at Yale, Keller was commissioned by the University to paint nearly 200 portaits of the Yale faculty.
During WWII, Keller worked to protect and recover art from the Nazis.
The National Portrait Gallery references two other Kiselewski portraits; a sculpture by Terry Iles and a water color painting by Frank Perley Fairbanks. The Gallery does not have images of these but we have the Fairbanks portrait from a photo in Barb Noland’s collection. You’ll find it in our American Academy section.