The Birth Of Venus: A Long Labor Of Love

Since 1961, Robert Laurent’s Birth of Venus fountain has been the centerpiece of Showalter Plaza, the artistic core of Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.

  • 2008.219

    Image 1 of 5

    Photo: IU Office of University Archives and Records Management

    Robert Laurent (American, born France, 1890–1970). Study for the Birth of Venus, ca. 1952–54. Pencil on paper. Gift of August L. Freundlich in honor of his daughter Mary F. Held (IU Art Museum 2008.219)

  • Robert Laurent at work on Venus

    Image 2 of 5

    Photo: IU Office of University Archives and Records Management

    Robert Laurent at work on Venus.

  • Showalter Fountain

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    Photo: IU Office of University Archives and Records Management

    The Showalter fountain today.

  • Fine Arts Group - Eggers and Higgins 1939 - small size

    Image 4 of 5

    Photo: IU Office of University Archives and Records Management

    Plans for the Showalter fountain by the architectural firm Eggers and Higgins, 1939

  • Memorial Fountain - Eggers and Higgins 1943- small size

    Image 5 of 5

    Photo: IU Office of University Archives and Records Management

    Plans for the Showalter fountain by architectural firm Eggers and Higgins, 1943

Event Information

“The Great American Sketchbook” and sketches at the IU Archives

Two exhibitions that tell the story of the Birth of Venus fountain at Showalter Plaza.


IU Art Museum; IU archives (Wells Library E460)

Through May 30, 2010 and June 30, 2010, respectively

Since 1961, Robert Laurent’s Birth of Venus fountain has been the centerpiece of Showalter Plaza, the artistic core of Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. It’s a celebratory, modernist take on a classical subject that brings to mind Paul Manship’s Prometheus at New York’s Rockefeller Center skating rink.

Complementary Exhibitions

Two exhibitions tell the story of how this beloved landmark came to take its central place in the university’s Fine Arts Plaza. On view at the IU Art Museum, a preparatory drawing for the Birth of Venus fountain is featured in the exhibition “The Great American Sketchbook: Drawings from the August L. and L. Tommie Freundlich Collection.” Meanwhile, a show at the IU Archives curated by Bethany Fiechter showcases complementary sketches along with architectural plans for the fountain, photographs and correspondence relating to the project. The show at the archives provides insight into the original concept for the plaza and the fountain, as well as the sculptor’s creative process.

Herman Wells considered Showalter Plaza the crossroads of culture,” explains Nan Brewer, the museum’s Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper.

Carrie Schwier, Assistant Archivist adds that in his dedication speech, the legendary president mused that the fountain’s “central figure, the goddess of love, truth and beauty…profoundly reaffirmed the University’s belief in the importance of the arts and the life of the spirit.”

In the nearly 50 years since its dedication, the Showalter fountain has become an iconic symbol of the university. It has served as a site of celebration and protest; occasionally, it has been the target of vandalism. The exhibition at the archives also tells the story of the fish that got away.

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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