Katherine Ward Lane Weems

Elephant frieze on Harvard's Biology Lab building

Elephant frieze on Harvard's Biology Lab building

Katherine Ward Lane Weems (1899 – 1989) was the daughter of the president of the board of trustees of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  Among her mentors were John Singer Sargent and Anna Hyatt Huntington, who both had studios nearby. Anna Hyatt became an inspiration and introduced her to leading figures at the National Sculpture Society. In 1926, Lane won a Bronze Medal at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition, and the Widener Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy.

In 1933 she was given the commission to create a frieze of elephants on the red brick facade of the Harvard University Biology lab. This was accomplished by chiseling the exterior of the building with a pneumatic drill, creating a linear frieze with over 30 animals across the building’s top story, installing three bronze doors, and creating a pair of larger-than-life bronze rhinos for the front steps. Her other commissioned monuments still on view in Boston are the six dolphins at the New England Aquarium and the fountain at the Boston Esplanade Plaza.

Lane married in 1947 but continued to exhibit under her maiden name. She was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and became a full academician of the National Academy. In 1965 a permanent gallery was established at the Boston Museum of Science to show her small animal bronzes and drawings, and in 1987 the museum established the Katherine Lane Weems Chair in Decorative Arts.

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