In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were trapped in a labyrinth on the island of Crete. To escape, Daedalus made them both wings out of feathers and wax. Ignoring his father's warning not to fly too close to the sun, Icarus fell into the sea when his wings melted. The myth is often employed to symbolize the hubris of youth or the failed ambition of humankind.
Among the most popular sculptures in the Garden, Lotus (the Egyptian goddess of fertility) was modeled after a hippopotamus in the San Antonio Zoo. The San Antonio parents who commissioned it in stoneware soon requested enough bronze castings for each family member. It has since become one of the artist’s most popular sculptures.
Madonna & Child
This is an abstract or stylized interpretation of the iconic image of the Madonna and Child, the scale model for an 8-foot bronze placed at St. David’s Hospital in Austin. Originally cast in plaster, it remained in storage until the St. David’s “Pink Ladies” raised funds to cast the work. It was dedicated at in 1989.
The Greek muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, preside over arts and sciences. Stylistically, their poses and clothing are classically inspired, creating elegant, timeless, inspirational figures. In 1962, the University of Texas (UT) commissioned three large bronze sculptures from the esteemed Professor Charles Umlauf. After spending two months casting the Muses in Pietrasanta, Italy, Umlauf shipped the larger-than-life bronzes to Austin for their 1963 installation.
Muse II (head detail)
In 1963, Umlauf created three larger-than-life bronze inspirational figures —or Muses—for a major University of Texas commission. That same year he cast the head of the second Muse as a discrete work. The thin bronze here makes it easier to imagine the hollow interior of the larger-than-life Muses.
One of two pietàs in the Garden, this composition closely upholds the tradition of the Virgin holding her deceased son. Umlauf originally made this in stoneware in 1958 and was able to cast it in bronze five years later. A golden bronze casting can be seen by the public at the University Catholic Center on the UT Austin campus.
Reclining Figure I
Umlauf submitted two proposals for the 1959 Love Field competition: Spirit of Flight (the winning submission) and Four Seasons, represented in the guise of four muses. Although he never created the latter project, Reclining Figure I (Muse) is a study for the theme, suggesting that she may symbolize a season. Umlauf extends the fabric beneath the figure, creating a base made of drapery.
Umlauf made numerous seated and standing bathers throughout 1958 in preparation for his Valley House Gallery retrospective in Dallas the next year. This bather, cast in bronze in 1965, is exactly the size of its stoneware prototype. An enlarged version (#31) is nearby in the garden, allowing viewers to consider how scale affects form.
Umlauf made a small clay study for this sculpture in 1950 during a Guggenheim Fellowship. Umlauf allows the figure’s gestures and posture to represent the abstract concept of “supplication.” He remained interested in the theme 15 years later when he had the funds to transform the original ceramic into the full-size bronze, you see here.