Frederick Hart (American, 1943–1999) was a sculptor born in Atlanta, GA. His mother died of scarlet fever in 1945, and he lived with his aunt and grandmother until his father was discharged from the Navy in 1947. His father later remarried, and had a daughter named Chesley. In 1959, Hart was accepted to the University of South Carolina in Columbia, but was expelled when he was found to be the only white person who participated in a civil rights demonstration. Tragically, in 1966, Chesley died from leukemia at just 16 years old. The impact of this event went on to influence Hart’s work. The same year his sister passed away, Hart went to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an apprentice with the Giorgio Gianetti Architectural Plaster Studio. Later, from 1967 to 1971, he worked as an apprentice at the Washington National Cathedral, where he attained the rank of stone carver under the mentorship of Richard Feller and Roger Morigi.
Hart’s career gained momentum when, in 1974, he won an international competition to design an area of the main entrance to the Washington National Cathedral. In 1975, he began pioneering the use of clear acrylic resin in statues with his work entitled Child. In 1979, he created Processional Cross, which was used in a mass by Pope John Paul II at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In 1982, Hart received two important commissions, one from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to create a figurative sculpture, and the other from the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution to make a bronze bust of NASA’s James Webb. In 1984, he completed the bronze sculpture Three Soldiers. This was Hart’s best-known work; the piece was installed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and dedicated by Ronald Reagan.
The artist received many awards throughout his career, including the Presidential Award for Design Excellence for Three Soldiers in 1988, and the Newington-Cropsey Foundation Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1998. Hart passed away on August 13, 1999, in Baltimore, MD. His work continued to be highly praised after his death, and he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the US government, in 2004.