Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Robert Weaver (1913-1991)

The 2012 Peru Amateur Circus and Circus City Festival are underway this week, July 14 through 21 in Peru, Indiana. To coincide with those events, I would like to write about an artist of the circus, Peru native Robert Weaver.

Robert Edward Weaver was born on November 15, 1913, in Peru, Indiana, winter home of America's circuses, now designated as the Circus Capital of the World and home of the International Circus Hall of Fame. Weaver earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and studied fresco painting at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Although he traveled to Mexico and Europe, kept a studio in Greenwich Village, and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Weaver always returned to Peru and his role of promoting the circus and his hometown's unique place in the culture of the circus.  

In addition to being a hometown booster, Weaver worked as a painter, muralist, sculptor, commercial artist, and illustrator. His work appeared in national magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Sports IllustratedGood Housekeeping, Child Life, Children’s Playmate, and The Brownie Reader. He executed a number of murals in Indiana and at the Alameda Naval Air Station in California. He also exhibited his work in Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, at the Hoosier Salon, and at the San Francisco World's Fair. Weaver earned numerous awards and honors over his five-decade career. He also taught painting, mural design, drawing, and illustration at the Herron School of Art and served as chair of the Department of Illustration.

In 1960, Weaver led a revitalization campaign in Peru that included a downtown beautification project and the establishment of the Circus City Festival, Inc. (CCFI), an organization in which he served as president. The CCFI was instrumental in the foundation and promotion of the Peru Amateur Circus and the Circus City Festival, held each July in Peru. Weaver died on July 18, 1991, in New Bern, North Carolina. His work was subject of a segment of the television show Across Indiana in 1995. In 2010, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra debuted a concert piece by James Beckel, Jr., the slow movement of which was inspired by a 1952 painting by Robert Weaver entitled "Daniel (In the Lion's Den)." And of course this week, young performers will display their talents in the Peru Amateur Circus, the handiwork of Peru's circus painter, Robert Edward Weaver.

"Circus Poster," an oil painting by Robert Weaver in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
"Bull Man," an acrylic painting by Weaver. Note that--oddly enough--the image of the eye of the elephant in the foreground is repeated not only in the eye of the elephant in the background but also in the cuff of the bull man's trousers. 

Written by Terence Hanley and Bridget Hanley of Proficient Pen
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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