Christian Petersen

Christian Petersen (1885-1961) emigrated to America with his parents from Dybol, Denmark, in 1894. In 1900, he apprenticed in the die-cutting trade at the Newark Technical School (New Jersey); and later attended the Fawcett School of Design (Newark, New Jersey); and the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, Rhode Island). He also joined the prestigious Art Students League in New York, where he met life-long friend, George Nerney. Petersen studied drawing under George Bridgeman, and apprenticed with sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson. Due to financial constraints, he focused on his die-cutting career at the Robins Company in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He returned to sculpting however, and produced numerous works in the East. Through Kitson's connections, Petersen received sculpture commissions from Iowa beginning in the late 1920s.

During the Depression Petersen was hired by Grant Wood's Public Works of Art Project in Iowa City, Iowa, at the suggestion of Iowa State College (ISC, later University) President, Raymond Hughes. In 1934 he began working on relief sculptures for ISC's Dairy Industry Building and was appointed Campus Artist-in-Residence in 1935 (1935-1961). Petersen was named an Associate Professor in 1955. Among his works on Iowa State's campus are the Athletic Bas Reliefs (1936, State Gym); the "Gentle Doctor" (1937, Veterinary Medicine); the Four Seasons Fountain (1941, Memorial Union); the Marriage Ring (1942, Family and Consumer Sciences); and Library Boy and Girl (1944, ISU Library). Petersen also produced numerous major studio sculptures, including Flood (1938); Soon After Flood (1939); Old Woman in Prayer (1940); The Price of Victory (1944); Viking (1946); Christ with Bound Hands (1950); and other busts, reliefs, portraits, and small sculptures.

He was an honorary member of Delta Phi Delta (an art honorary), and Tau Sigma Delta, (an architecture and applied art honorary society). His first marriage (1908-1928) to Emma L. Hoenicke had three children: Helene, Lawrence, and Ruth. He married Charlotte Garvey (d. 1985) in 1931, and their daughter Mary Charlotte was born in 1936.

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Resources available online


Christian Petersen Papers

RS 26/2/5
University Archives, Iowa State University Library


Christian Petersen: Digital Collection

University Archives, Iowa State University Library


Christian Petersen's Works in Parks Library

 Iowa State University Library 


Christian Petersen Art Museum

University Museums, Iowa State University