Bela Pratt

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Bela L. Pratt
Portrait of Bela Pratt (1918) by Howard E. Smith
Born(1867-12-11)December 11, 1867
Norwich, Connecticut, United States
DiedMay 17, 1917(1917-05-17) (aged 49)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Bela Lyon Pratt (December 11, 1867 – May 18, 1917) was an American sculptor from Connecticut.


Pratt was born in Norwich, Connecticut, to Sarah (Whittlesey) and George Pratt, a Yale-educated lawyer. His maternal grandfather, Oramel Whittlesey, was a pianoforte maker and founder in 1835 of Music Vale Seminary in Salem, Connecticut, the first music school in the country authorized to confer degrees to teach music.[1][2] At 16, Pratt began studying at the Yale University School of Fine Arts, where his teachers included John Henry Niemeyer (1839–1932) and John Ferguson Weir (1841–1926).

After graduating from Yale, he enrolled at the Art Students League of New York where he took classes from William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Kenyon Cox (1859–1919), Francis Edwin Elwell (1858–1922), and most important, Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907), who became his mentor. After a short stint in Saint-Gaudens' private studio, Pratt traveled to Paris, where he trained with sculptors Henri-Michel-Antoine Chapu (1833–1891) and Alexandre Falguière (1831–1900) at the École des Beaux-Arts.

In 1892, he returned to the United States to create two large sculptural groups representing The Genius of Navigation for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He also produced sculptures for the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo in 1901. In 1893, he began a 25-year career as an influential teacher of modeling in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. One of Pratt's most famous students at the School was John A. Wilson. During this time, Pratt sculpted a series of busts of Boston's intellectual community, including Episcopal minister Phillips Brooks (1899, Brooks House, Harvard University), Colonel Henry Lee (1902, Memorial Hall, Harvard University), and Boston Symphony Orchestra founder Henry Lee Higginson (1909, Symphony Hall, Boston). He became an associate of the National Academy in 1900. (1)

1908 Quarter eagle Indian Head design

When Saint-Gaudens' uncompleted group for the entrance to the Boston Public Library was rejected, Pratt was awarded a commission for personifications of Art and Science. Pratt continued Saint-Gaudens' influence in coin design after 1907. His gold Indian Head half ($5) and quarter ($2.50) eagle gold U.S. coins are known as the "Pratt coins" and feature an unusual intaglio Indian head, the U.S. mint's only recessed design in circulation. A memorial exhibition of 125 of his sculptures was held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the spring of 1918.[3]

Pratt's students included Frederick Warren Allen, Daisy Blanche King.,[4] Bashka Paeff, and Richard Henry Recchia, as well as his son Dudley Pratt.

Selected works[edit]

Art and Science on the Library of Congress Building, Washington DC, USA



  • Downes, William Howe. "The Work of Bela L. Pratt, Sculptor." New England Magazine 27 (February 1903): 760–771.
  • Coburn, Frederick W. "Americanism in Sculpture. As Represented in the Works of Bela Lyon Pratt." Palette and Bench 2, nos. 5 and 6 (February–March 1910): 95–97, 127–131.
  • Dorr, Charles Henry. "Bela L. Pratt: An Eminent New England Sculptor." Architectural Record 35, no. 6 (June 1914): 508–518.
  • Obituary, The New York Times (19 May 1917).
  • Taft, Lorado. The History of American Sculpture, New York, 1924: 491–496.
  1. ^ "Oramel Whittlesey · Music Vale Seminary the Normal Academy of Music: Salem, Connecticut". Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Music Vale Seminary - Connecticut Historical Markers on". Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Bela Lyon Pratt," Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, vol. 16 (Spring 1918), pp. 28-29.
  4. ^ EHRMANN, Thierry. "The biography of Daisy Blanche KING: information and auctions for the artworks by the artist Daisy Blanche KING -". Retrieved 30 December 2017.

External links[edit]