Louisville Sculptor Enid Yandell
“Everybody in the city is familiar with the Daniel Boone statue in Cherokee Park,” says Louisville artist Ewing Fahey. “But how many people out of the thousands of people could tell you who made it? Most people don’t know.”
Fahey is a founding member of Enid: Generations of Women Sculptors, a Louisville collaborative of artists named after the sculptor Enid Yandell.
The city of Louisville recently celebrated the 150th anniversary of Yandell’s birth with exhibits at the Filson Historical Society, the Speed Museum, and other prominent locations. The city has also displayed a Hometown Hero banner in honor of Yandell at the corner of Seventh and Main Streets.
Yandell grew up on Broadway and in her youth attended the Southern Exposition, where visitors could view works of art at a time when Louisville did not have an art museum of its own, says Juilee Decker, author of Enid Yandell: Kentucky’s Pioneer Sculptor. Yandell went to the Cincinnati Art Academy, where she began her career as a sculptor at a time when few women pursued that art form.
Yandell’s most well known work is the Daniel Boone statue currently located at Cherokee Park. The statue originated at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where Yandell was in charge of managing several art projects.
“All the other state buildings had a standalone piece representing their state, and she thought Daniel Boone would be a great representation for the Kentucky building,” says Heather Potter, curator at the Filson Historical Society. “The statue was created and it was on display outside the Kentucky Building at the Chicago World’s Fair. It then came back to Louisville and sat around maybe close to a decade before they could raise the funds to have it cast in bronze. Once the money was raised, then it was placed in Cherokee Park.”
Many of Yandell’s great works were ephemeral and are only known today thanks to records from the time. Among those lost works was the Palace Athena, a 25-foot tall sculpture commissioned for the Tennessee Centennial. The finished product was an iconic image of the Centennial celebration, but it no longer exists.
“It’s interesting to think about Enid’s work and the fact that it was made from impermanent material,” says Decker. “It’s only through documentary evidence at those fairs or her sketches or photographs of her work that we know what these pieces would have looked like.”
Enid’s life took her around the world, from her studio in Paris to working with the Red Cross during World War I and fighting for women’s suffrage in the United States.
“I think Enid Yandell should be a point of pride for Kentuckians,” says Potter. “She beat all the odds. She made a career for herself in sculpture when women didn’t do that. I think it’s a reminder to everybody that we have strong, capable women here in our state.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life season 25, episode 14, which originally aired on February 15, 2020. Watch the full episode.