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Jim Brothers, sick with cancer, worked in his final months to finish work on "Homage." The piece will be installed and dedicated in June, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The Roanoke Times | File
Jim Brothers shortly before the dedication of the National D-Day Memorial in 2001 with one of the statues he sculpted.
Courtesy of the National D-Day Memorial
Sculptor Jim Brothers worked in the final months of his life to complete this work, “Homage,” which will be dedicated at the Bedford memorial on the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014. He intended it to reflect the honor and grief felt by communities across the U.S. that sent young men to war who never returned.
Associated Press | File 1998
Sculptor Jim Brothers stands in his Lawrence, Kan., studio with "Across the Beach," one of several bronze sculptures he has created for National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
Associated Press | File 2002
Jim Brothers works in Lawrence, Kan., on sculptures of a World War II medic following a soldier onto the shores of France on D-Day, that were destined for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
Associated Press | File 2003
Jim Brothers stands in his Lawrence, Kan., studio with the original clay sculpture for a bronze of President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower that was placed in the United States Capitol in June of 2003.
Matt Busse | The (Lynchburg) News & Advance
Sculptor Jim Brothers stands Thursday at the National D-Day Memorial with a 7-1/2 foot statue of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, during World War II.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Jim Brothers, the Kansas artist who created iconic sculptures for the National D-Day Memorial, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 72.
Even while in hospice care, he was directing assistants to complete yet another sculpture for the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. That sculpture, called “Homage,” is finished, and will be dedicated at the memorial next year during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
“He loved this country, loved the World War II generation,” said memorial President April Cheek-Messier. She described Brothers as a “fun guy” and a “true patriot.”
The memorial showcases about a dozen larger-than-life sculptures by Brothers, including “Across the Beach,” “Death on the Shore,” “Through the Surf,” “Scaling the Wall” and “Valor, Fidelity, Sacrifice,” which dramatically depict American soldiers under fire in the landing at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Other sculptures by Brothers include “The Supreme Commander,” a likeness of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Another casting of Brothers’ sculpture of Eisenhower stands in the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.
Brothers’ passion for his subjects came through in his work, producing sculptures “so powerful that they don’t really need any text to go along with them,” Cheek-Messier said.
Brothers worked as a commercial illustrator, taught high school art and tried his hand a number of other trades, including policeman, sewage plant worker, social worker and Volkswagen repairman. He pursued but did not complete a master’s degree at Kansas University. He was commissioned by the D-Day Memorial in 1998, based on the strength of a sculpture erected in Moberly, Mo., depicting Omar Bradley, the nation’s last five-star general.
Roanoke resident Bernard Marie, a native of France who as a child lived through the D-Day invasion of Normandy, traveled with Brothers as he visited France to conduct research for the project and visited the artist’s Lawrence, Kan., studio many times. He described the sculptor as unpretentious and unconcerned with protocol. He recalled a photo of Brothers from the 2001 dedication of the D-Day Memorial, shaking the hand of the Grand Chancellor of France’s Legion of Honor while clad in boots, a “hillbilly hat” and an open collar with no tie.
Brothers was obsessed with getting every detail right and never satisfied with his work, Marie said. “He was a friend of every World War II guy.”
Like many artists, he had his share of eccentricity. A friend once left his old Volkswagen Beetle at Brothers’ house for so long that the artist incorporated it into one of his sculptures, Marie recalled.
A 2000 Roanoke Times story about a visit to Brothers’ studio describes musical instruments hanging in the trees, a mailbox mounted on a motorcycle, canoes half-buried in the yard. Yet the work Brothers’ produced there possessed a stately gravitas.
His sculpture entitled “Flight,” depicting a dove taking flight from a child’s hand, was chosen to stand before a federal building in Kansas City, Mo., as a memorial to teachers and children killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Cheek-Messier said that Brothers’ final work, “Homage,” is intended not just to memorialize the Bedford Boys, the soldiers from Bedford who died in the D-Day invasion, but to honor all the communities who grieved for loved ones lost during the war.
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