Lawrence-based sculptor Jim Brothers died on Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 72.
Brothers grew up in Eureka, Kan., a small town in the Flint Hills. He told the Lawrence Journal-World in 2004 that when he was growing up, art was not viewed as practical and he was "the only kid in that little school who drew."
An aunt encouraged Brothers to follow his passion; he attended Phillips University in Enid, Okla. and earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts.
After stints in commercial illustration, teaching high school art, and a move to the West Coast, he returned to Kansas to pursue a master's at Kansas University in the mid-1960s; by the 1970s, he had embarked on a career as a working studio artist.
A love for history was evident in much of Brothers' work. Six bronze sculptures, including Across The Beach and Death On The Shore, are part of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.; and Citizen Soldier is placed at the Veterans of Foreign War national headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. His work is also on display in Washington, D.C., in the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall, and a life-size statue of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.
In an interview with KCUR in 2009, Brothers said he was known mostly for his traditional, figurative work, but his style had changed through the years. And he said that was something he always kept top of mind: "I have the habit of when I finish a big figurative piece of cutting off the clay head and throwing it on the shelf because as we keep working, we don’t realize we’ve changed, but we have. And that way it lets me go back and see where I came from."
His friend, and former student, Louis Copt, in 2009, called Brothers "a multi-faceted individual, from sculptures to motorcyles to playing in the Alferd Packer (Memorial String) Band. Jim has always been to me a real free spirit."
John Hachmeister, associate professor of sculpture at KU, told the Journal-World that Brothers "chose early on a career path that didn't follow the fashion of the time because what he wanted to do was model a figure."
Hachmeister added, "The other thing that interested him was the kind of art that encompasses or summarizes a moment – a moment in history. That falls in and out of fashion. He certainly, for quite a number of years, was not trendy. But he continued to follow his passions, his interests. He is an absolutely exceptional sculptor."
His final sculpture, which, according to the Journal-World, friends helped him complete shortly before his death, is a memorial to playwright William Inge. It's slated for installation in Independence, Kan., Inge's hometown, in early 2014.
Jim Brothers is survived by his wife, Kathleen Correll. Funeral services are pending, but updates will be posted on the Warren-McElwain site.