Renowned sculptor Ruth Duckworth, whose celebrated career included many close ties with the University of Chicago, died at age 90, Sunday, Oct. 18 in Chicago.
Influenced by the great modernists Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore and Constantin Brancusi, Duckworth's signature organic abstract forms adorn public spaces and museum collections throughout the world.
However, some of Duckworth's best-known work was inspired by University of Chicago science faculty and their teaching tools - slides of clouds, topographic illustrations of Mount Fuji and NASA photos. These provided the inspiration for Earth, Water, and Sky, a large-scale mural commissioned in 1965 for the then-new Henry Hinds Laboratory for the Geophysical Sciences. The 400 square-foot glazed stoneware artwork, a campus treasure, graces the walls and ceilings of the building entrance.
It was Duckworth's first large-scale work, and came on the heels of her American debut at the University's Renaissance Society. A European 'emigr'e, Duckworth fled Nazi Germany for England in 1936, and came to Chicago in 1964 to teach in the Department of Art at Midway Studios (now the Department of Visual Arts), where she remained on the faculty until 1977.
During her prodigious career, Duckworth created everything from tiny, delicate clay vessels to monumental outdoor stone and metal sculptures, paving new ways of viewing "art" versus "craft."
Working out of her home and studio in Chicago, she pursued her highly personal vision well into her 80s. Her celebrated career was marked by the retrospective "Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor," which toured internationally in 2005-2006, with stops at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery.
A memorial service for Duckworth, which is open to the entire campus community, is scheduled for 11 a.m., Friday, Dec. 4 in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.