Treasures of the Cathedral: Everett DuPen

with 2 Comments

Have you ever noticed the wood carvings located just as you enter Bloedel Hall from the west doors of the building? For the small prayer card included in this year's stewardship mailing, the stewardship committee selected a detail from this work, depicting Jesus telling his disciples to cast their nets on the other side of their boat, as recounted in the Gospel of John, chapter 21. (Click the photo to enlarge.) The entire work, titled Christ the Good Shepherd, is the work of sculptor Everett DuPen (1912–2005).

DuPen taught for many years at the University of Washington, and his work can be be seen in public installations throughout the Seattle area, notably the Fountain of Creation, located at Seattle Center between the Arena and the Northwest Rooms (now the KEXP studios), the carved walnut screens at the entrance of Seattle Municipal Tower, and the fountain at the Pritchard Building at the state capital in Olympia.

Throughout his career, however, he had a special affinity for creating art for churches, and his work includes the stunning 30-foot by 20-foot carved plaster relief altarpiece at St John the Baptist in West Seattle, the baptismal font at Emmanuel Mercer Island, a crucifix for St Stephen's in Laurelhurst, and over a dozen others. An interesting brief documentary on the life and work of DuPen may be seen below.

Christ the Good Shepherd was commissioned when Cathedral House was constructed in the late 1950s and is dedicated to the memory of Julius Harold Bloedel and Mina Prentice Bloedel, whose generosity made the construction of Cathedral House possible. While Mina Prentice Bloedel had been a devoted member of Saint Mark's Parish for many years, her husband Julius was not an Episcopalian. He reached out to the then-Dean Saint Mark's, The Rev. John C. Leffler, after Mina's death in 1951, and in gratitude for that relationship he made a gift to the cathedral of $50,000.

There are two interesting facts about this gift recounted in Dean Leffler's writings. First, the gift was designated specifically for stained glass windows in the cathedral. Following Julius' death in 1957, Dean Leffler asked his son Prentice Bloedel to allow the gift to be used on the construction of Cathedral House instead. He agreed, on the condition that a work of art in be commissioned in his parents' memory—resulting in the DuPen carvings, and in the naming of "Bloedel Hall." The second fact about the gift is that it was given in the form of IBM stock, which the cathedral sold almost immediately. IBM's historical stock price information only goes back to 1972, but an extremely rough estimate would be that that $50,000 worth of IBM stock in 1957 would be worth well over $20 million today.

Click the images to enlarge.

2 Responses

  1. Sue Tait
    | Reply

    This is a wonderful resource. One congregation in our diocese has compiled a
    print version of the treasure in their parish. Are you or anyone interested in
    creating something like that? No time pressure of course, and I have a copy if you
    are interested in seeing what I’m talking about. Thanks for considering it. This idea
    has surfaced off and on for years but never went anywhere in actuality.

    • Saint Mark's Cathedral
      |

      Thanks Sue! The Communications Director is indeed VERY interested in doing something like that! It struck me that art that appears in the cathedral temporarily gets a lot of “coverage,” but beloved art that’s been around for decades does not. I’m personally less interested in a systematic inventory than I am highlighting special objects that have interesting stories to tell. (And of course, a version of that already exists, but it’s just a giant binder that Ray Miller has put things in over the years…)

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