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"Islands of the Pacific"
Adaline Kent

The sculptures you are viewing are from the Court of Pacifica at the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE), held here on Treasure Island in 1939-1940. The court included a central fountain surrounded by twenty sculptures, an 80-foot plaster goddess named “Pacifica,” and other monumental works of art which embodied the Pacific Unity theme of the GGIE.

The middle sculptures in each group of three are by Adaline Kent, with the group title "Islands of the Pacific." The two sculptures represent young girls, reclining and listening to music. Unfortunately, the source of that music - a sculpture of a young boy playing a stringed instrument (probably a ukulele) is missing.


Juliette James wrote of Kent's sculptures, "Representing the Islands of the Pacific … is a Youth dreamingly strumming on his guitar-like instrument. The Girl on the left lies off in the sun lazily listening. These island sirens have little to do but to yield to fancy and the sun. The Girl beyond seems not to think of the music, but only of her own conscious beauty. She is her own music." ( The Meaning of the Courts, an interpretive booklet about the art of the GGIE.)

Art historian and critic Eugen Neuhaus wrote "Miss Kent's statue, 'Young Man Improvising Music'" – that would be our ukulele player – "is one of the finest pieces of plastic art which the Exposition offers ... it possesses both outer form and an inner life. It is more than decorative." (The Art of Treasure Island)

But what became of this third sculpture, and of the third sculpture from each trio of sculptures? No one really knows, and no evidence has been found of their remains. A few facts are known, but their fate is still undetermined.

One thing we do know is that the four missing sculptures were all perched atop one of the fountain's concentric rings, and were subjected to being sprayed with jets of water. The eight surviving sculptures were beyond the reach of the water. The sculptures, however, were made of cast concrete, and probably should have been able to withstand all that water. After all, they have now survived seventy years of Treasure Island weather.

Helen Phillips, sculptor of the far left and right statues on display here, speculated that the Court of Pacifica simply cost too much money. It was filled with art - two murals by Maynard Dixon, an enormous colorful bas relief by the Bruton sisters, Ralph Stackpole's eighty-foot statue of Pacifica - in addition to the twenty sculptures around the Fountain of Western Waters. Perhaps Timothy Pflueger, the mastermind behind the entire court, ran out of money. Phillips speculated that there was not enough money to cast the last four sculptures in concrete, and that they may have been cast in plaster. Since these sculptures were situated where they were continually doused with water, perhaps the plaster simply did not survive beyond the end of the fair. All of the artists involved with the Court of Pacifica are now dead, but perhaps someday we will find further clues to the mystery of the four missing sculptures.

Adaline Kent was born in Kentfield, California, in 1900. She attended Vassar College but returned to the Bay Area, where she studied with sculptor Ralph Stackpole ("Pacifica") at the California School of Fine Arts, now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. She travelled to Paris in 1924 to study at the Academy de la Grande Chaurniere with Emile Antoine Bordello, a disciple of and former assistant to Rodin. Adaline was a prolific and thoughtful sculptor who wrote extensively about her art. She was married to San Francisco sculptor Robert Howard, who created the "Whale" sculpture originally exhibited in the San Francisco Building at the GGIE, and familiar to many as the sculpture formerly behind the Aquarium in San Francisco. Adaline Kent died in an automobile accident in 1959.

Online statues content designed by Urso Chappell

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