Jim West, In the East, Brother Benjamin Franklin, 2018
Bronze, Stainless Steel, Marble
9’ x 17’(2.74 m x 5.18m)
Grand Museum and Library, Philadelphia, PA
Inspired by the relationship between Artist Jean Antoine Houdon (1741–1828) and Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), In The East, Brother Ben Franklin pays homage to them both. Houdon’s bust of Franklin, the first of his canonical portraits of leading figures in American history, is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Artists over the years have referred to Houdon’s sculpture not only as iconic, but as the true likeness of Benjamin Franklin himself. In deference to this the portrait bust, Jim West recognizes the importance of Franklin, the significance of Houdon, and the sincerity of their friendship by inscribing the date of their first meeting on the collar of his 17′ bronze likeness. In an equally symbolic gesture, a ‘nine line’ graphic was added to the sculpture to represent the significance of The Muses or Nine Sisters. These inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts in Greek mythology were considered to be the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures.