St. Louis Regional Arts Commission

Public Art Details

Leon R. Strauss

Artist: Jessie Vonk
Region: Downtown St. Louis
Location: Ward 7 - Grand at Washington Avenue
Address: N Grand Blvd at Washington Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63103
Dimensions: 5' x 3' x 2'
Year completed: 1999
Material: Bronze with granite pedestal
Owner: Grand Center
Donor: Fox Associates


Facing the majestic and ornate Fox Theater, in a tree-lined park setting, is a bronze portrait-bust of a man. Pensive, with penetrating eyes peering forth under thick brows, a bearded chin thrust slightly forward, and a high forehead that catches ambient light, the portrait is of prominent civic leader Leon R. Strauss. An “Urban Pioneer and Preservationist,” as the plaque indicates, he was a man with a vision of a restored city, a city with a grand center, a vision that, with his wife Mary, changed the urban landscape of the area. The sculpture faces one of the examples of urban renewal, the Fox Theater. This memorial piece stands in line with the Saint Louis Symphony hall down the block—an institution to which Strauss was deeply committed. The text concludes saying the sculpture is a tribute to Strauss by a grateful city.

Cast in bronze with a granite base, this sculpture was developed from a series of photographs. Jessie Vonk, the sculptor, overcame some of the difficulties of creating a life-like image from photographs because she knew Strauss well. She was determined to capture the marvelous sparkle she always saw in his eyes. Vonk also works in wood, stone, and bronze.

Artist Jessie Vonk sculpted this piece when she was living in St. Louis. Her career as a sculptor began after an illustrious career as a ballerina. Born in Munich, Germany, where her training began, she settled in Australia at 14, becoming a prima ballerina by 16. Dance study in London and Paris was followed by a move to Amsterdam. There, after years in ballet, her passion for the visual arts took precedence. A sculptor now for 30 years, her work is a part of many private collections. Her home is in Amsterdam, Holland.

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