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Sculptor Frederick Hart Dies

By Louie Estrada
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 1999; Page C8


Frederick Hart, 56, a Washington figurative sculptor best known for his creation the "Three Soldiers," part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, died of cancer Aug. 13 at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. He had lung cancer.

He also made the elaborate Creation scene on the west front of the National Cathedral – which includes three life-size statues of Adam, Peter and Paul, and took about 13 years to complete. The massive bas-relief, dedicated in 1982, represented his first big break. Before winning an international competition to design the decorative facade, he was a starving artist who attended the University of South Carolina, the Corcoran Gallery and American University.

The artwork was back in the news in 1997, when he filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. and its parent company, Time-Warner Inc., claiming they violated copyright law by usurping and demonizing the sculpture's centerpiece in the film "Devil's Advocate." The case was eventually settled out of court.

It wasn't his first court battle. In 1987, he won a lawsuit against a veterans group over its use of the memorial sculpture on a souvenir without his permission.

Born in Atlanta, he spent most of his life in Washington, where his influences were the statues of Civil War generals on horseback. Despite discouragement from his father, he pursued his passion for art, ran a struggling art studio and learned the subtleties of sculpting and stonecutting during an apprenticeship at the cathedral.

After his successes, he moved to a 250-acre estate in Fauquier County and commanded tens of thousands of dollars for his sculptures. Most recently, he was working on a life-size bronze, intended to be a gift for Britain's Prince Charles. The sculpture includes four young women dancing in a ring, symbolizing the murdered daughters of Russian Czar Nicholas II.

Mr. Hart shrugged off criticism that his realistic sculptures were passe. As for "Three Soldiers," he once said his goal was to create a moving evocation of the experience and service of the Vietnam veteran.

"They wear the uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young," he told an interviewer. "The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war."

Survivors include his wife, Lindy Hart of Hume, and two sons.


© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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