KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas artist whose bronze sculptures are on display in the nation's capital and at historical monuments around the country has died. He was 72.
Jim Brothers died Tuesday at his home in Lawrence where he had been receiving hospice care, said Audrey Bell, a funeral director at Warren McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence, Kan. Friends and colleagues said he had cancer.
Brothers is best known for two projects – creating a sculpture of Dwight Eisenhower that's on display at the Capitol in Washington and as the chief sculptor for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., said Paul Dorrell, who represented Brothers and owns the Leopold Gallery in Kansas City. Dorrell said the D-Day contract, which included 12 monumental bronzes and was worth $1.6 million, had a "huge impact on his career."
Dorrell and Brothers met in 1991 after a friend said the artist needed representation.
"I saw that Jim had an ability to communicate raw emotion in bronze that I had never encountered in a regional artist before," he said.
One of his first big monuments was one honoring the Civilian Conservation Corp in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. That was followed by a monument of Mark Twain in Hartford, Conn., where Twain lived for about two decades. Along the way, companies, including Boeing, and well known private individuals, including filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the late "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz and the late historian Stephen Ambrose, also acquired pieces from Brothers.
Kathy Correll, his wife and business manager, said his final piece – a memorial to William Inge, the Kansas playwright who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Picnic" – was completed "literally days before he died."
"He was a professional until the end," she said. "It was important to make deadlines and complete his commissions. That was a goal of his. He literally was working on it from his death bed."
She said her husband – a former high school teacher and illustrator – "put his heart and soul into every work that he created."
"He did his research, he got to know his subject," she said. "If it was a living person, he would interview them. He would spend time with them. He would learn something of their personal history. If it was a historical figure or if it was a figure that represented a larger group of people, he would always do his research and study his subject very thoroughly before he would even begin to prepare his piece."
Alan Webster, a friend of Brothers who used to own the Lawrence foundry that cast the artist's work, said had a wide circle of friends, played washboard in a string band and obtained a license that allowed him to perform civil weddings – typically garbed in western attire and carrying a shotgun.
"Art just oozed out of every pore in his body," Webster said. "He just always, always had something going on and many ideas. He just couldn't keep up with his own ideas."