Port Richmond Section, Philadelphia, PA – His journey as an artist has been life-long. From the age of 8, he recalls his first visit to Greece in 1929 on a ship that took days to cross the Atlantic. “I remember drawing human figures constantly on that journey. I knew even then I was going to be an artist,” says Evangelos Frudakis.
At the age of 93, Frudakis is a sculptor who has traveled his own path and is one of America’s most significant twentieth-century sculptors. Frudakis’ best known works are his national monuments, including, The Signer, exhibited outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and The Minuteman, at the National Guard Building in Washington, DC, which is also the official logo for the U.S. National Guard. His exquisite over-life-size female nude (see Gallery section of this site) Reaching is displayed in the Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture Museum, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Other major pieces are located in the Philadelphia Zoo and Civic Center. His stunning bronze fountain, Icarus and Daedalus, created in 1967, is found at the Central Arkansas Library, in Little Rock, Arkansas. A renowned mentor, he owned and operated the Frudakis Academy of Fine Arts, a workshop in Philadelphia for many years and is responsible for teaching many of the finest sculptors in America, who are now coming of age.
Frudakis’ portrait sculptures are too many to list, but they include President John F. Kennedy. His numerous awards include the prestigious Prix de Rome and the Herbert Adam’s Award (National Sculpture Society). Affiliations include: National Academician, Fellow; American Academy in Rome, Fellow; and, National Sculpture Society, and he is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.
Just two years ago, at the age of 90, Frudakis was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor–for lifetime achievement–by the National Sculpture Society. With only one winner each year–since 1929–this significant and celebrated award is analogous to the Academy Award for sculptors.
Between the 1890’s and early twentieth century, intense active Greek labor agents brought thousands of Greeks to the Salt Lake City region for work in the mines. This was the beginning of the Greeks that journeyed to the American west. Frudakis’ father, Vasilis, was part of these patriotis that arrived and he immigrated to the United States in 1910, from Ali Kambos near Knossos, Crete, Greece, and settled and worked in the coal mines around Reins, Utah. From a photograph of a young girl from Crete, showed to his father by a friend, the young Vasilis picked out his future bride, Christina. The couple was soon married and Frudakis was born in 1921.
He recalls life as being hard on his family. Greeks migrated back and forth, from Wyoming to Utah, for the work in the mines and railways, but art, and love of music, was in the blood of the Frudakis family. His father would play the Cretan Lyra when friends and family gathered for social affairs. Their roots of Hellenic traditions and customs from their homeland were deeply imbedded. Even without a church, a traveling priest would visit a household where the community would gather for Sunday service.
After a second attempt at making a living in Greece, the family returned and settled in New York City, where Frudakis started his art education. Growing up in the tough streets of Hell’s Kitchen, he found himself constantly getting into fights with other kids. His midwestern upbringing and love of the arts alienated him from his street-tough peers but also opened the door to his future. A transfer to an all-boys school got him noticed for his artistic abilities. Eventually this led to teaching at the National Academy of Design, the second oldest art school in the country. There, he was considered a premier teacher of sculpture in New York City at the time.
His teaching at the Academy was followed by a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he entered in 1941, for a short time. World War II and the draft took him to Europe where he served for two years, before returning to finish his scholarship. He later moved to Rome with his first wife, Virginia Parker, in 1950 after winning the Prix de Rome for sculpture. He settled back in Philadelphia, where in 1975, he taught and hosted his own workshops throughout the years.
Today, Frudakis continues to create and follow a path of expression as he has done from the beginning as an artist. Frudakis stated, of his life as a sculptor:
“When you look at my work, you sense a feeling of appreciation for the beauty and the truth, that’s in that work. Because I admire and respect nature. But far beyond, there’s poetry that you try to arrive to, concept that comes from the heart, that’s what you try to get into your work… so that it inspires people, and makes them feel good.
This is what the Greek influence on me was, the same choice that they had. They chose truth, they chose beauty, and the excellence that one ought to seek. In everything they did back in those days… that’s what the teachers were teaching their young… and in war and in peace, excellence was always sought. So Im an extension of that culture, and that’s my contribution to my country… I hope and to the world”.