Toronto Through My Lens

“Untitled”

Outside the Kelly Library, St. Michael’s College (U of T) at 113 St. Joseph Street, resides Untitled by sculptor William McElcheran.

This bronze sculpture was installed on June 6, 1973 as a plastic piece before being bronzed a few years later; it was sent to Italy for that process.

This is a 2-sided sculpture: the street side shows a crowd of people, many clinging to the others, while the library-facing side shows historical figures involved in intellectual discussions.

The Street-Facing Side (crowd)

The Library-Facing Side (historical figures)

McElcheran deliberately included the faces of many contemporary and ancient scholars and teachers on this side of the sculpture. Some of these individuals, such as Einstein or Gandhi, are easy to make out. From left to right, you can see the following figures:

James Joyce
Stephen Leacock
T. S. Eliot
Geoffrey Chaucer
Marshall McLuhan
Dante Alighieri
Germaine de Staël
George Bernard Shaw
George Sand
Leo Tolstoy
William Shakespeare
Sigmund Freud
Jean-Paul Sartre
Rene Descartes
Etienne Gilson
Søren Kierkegaard

Georg Hegel
Immanuel Kant
Eugène Ionescu
Jacques Maritain
St. Thomas Aquinas
Sir Isaac Newton
St. Theresa of Avila
St. Augustine
Albert Einsten
Eldridge Cleaver
John Henry Newman
Barbara Ward
Karl Marx
Charles Darwin
Mahatma Gandhi
Herman Kahn

Some of these scholars – for example, Marshall McLuhan and Etienne Gilson – have taught at St. Michael’s College and even used the Kelly Library.

Symbolism1

So what does McElcheran’s statue symbolize? The interpretation of Reverend Edward A. Synan (1918-1997), a noted philosopher and medievalist with the Pontifical Institute at the Medieval Studies at St. Michael’s College, was printed in the September 7, 1973 issue of the U of T Bulletin:

There are people outside and inside the Library, all of them gratifyingly different. … Some hurry by and will never go in. … Some will go in, but why hurry? Stand around and talk awhile. After you are in, ideas, facts, perspectives, are all hard to come by. One side of Bill’s sculpture says this and much more.

The other side in this artist’s report on the inside of our Library… (he) has reached the people whose books guarantee them survival. … Bill has put in conversation men and women who met only in libraries and in the intellects of those who use them. … Not all the figures are historic — at least not yet. Look carefully and — who knows? — you may find yourself.

Synan also observed that the head of Jesus can be seen on the side of the statue facing the street. Synan said McElcheran was trying to show that Christ overhears the talk of those waiting outside the library and that He can like what He hears. Knowledge is what a library is all about and it means hard work so a lot of struggle goes on, for first you must get in.

Father John Kelly speaking beside the McElcheran statue outside the Kelly Library, 1973 (I can’t help but wonder if the dude in the front left still has those groovy plaid pants…)

1Analysis from the Kelly Library’s site

Want to see more works by William McElcheran? Click here to read about another of his sculptures I’ve profiled on TOcityscapes.com.

3 Comments

  1. David

    Oh my Goodness. I have walked by this sculpture and never looked closely. Damn, the things we miss , when we don’t take a second to stop and enjoy. thank you Marvin, the next time I walk by this sculpture, I will stop and take a boo. and I will thing of you when I do.

  2. Michal

    Great photos.

    Ditto for me & more shame on me, as St. Mike’s is my alma mater. I used the Kelly Library for years.

    I should have shared in reply to an earlier post that I was privileged a few years ago to have a private tour led by Fr. Donovan, as part of a reunion event. He showed me his art collection, even those few pieces kept in his office. What a collection & what a gift by a very generous lover of art!

    • Marvin Job

      Thanks so much for your comments, guys. This is an intriguing, intricate sculpture… I’ve studied it I don’t know how many times, and I just noticed the face of Jesus on the Library side!

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