"The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one

  • Richard Hunt, "The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one , 1975, chromed and welded steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Container Corporation of America, 1984.124.122

Exhibition Label
In 1975, Hunt was invited by the Container Corporation of America to create a sculpture for the Great Ideas project, a program that commissioned artists to interpret the writings of the world’s eminent thinkers. Hunt chose a passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Blithedale Romance (1852), as his title and theme. Intending to evoke the feelings generated by the lines beginning, “The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one’s self a fool,” Hunt explained that the sculpture’s wheel and open, boxlike structure suggest motion in restraint. The arms that project into space imply man’s striving for heroic deeds.


African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
Luce Center Label

In 1950 the Container Corporation of America began commissioning artists to create works for its advertising campaign, "Great Ideas of Western Man." For the title of this work, Richard Hunt selected a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1852 novel, The Blithedale Romance. He was drawn to Hawthorne's tale of how a utopian commune is ruined by its members' selfish actions and its look at the differences between living in the city and in the country. The artist takes the city’s "junk," in this case car parts, and welds them together to form organic shapes that evoke what Hunt described as "the sense of freedom one has in contemplating nature." Here, discarded fenders appear to struggle in all directions, as if they were trying to expand. Hunt implied different stages of growth by giving the core a dull finish and the appendages a polished shine that suggests a newborn organism.

Luce Object Quote
"The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one's self a fool; the truest heroism, is to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom, to know when it ought to be resisted, and when to be obeyed." Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852
Title
"The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one's self a fool; the truest heroism, is to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom, to know when it ought to be resisted, and when to be obeyed."--Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852. From the series Great Ideas.
Artist
Date
1975
On View
Not on view.
Dimensions
32 x 50 5/8 x 33 3/4 in. (81.3 x 128.7 x 85.8 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Container Corporation of America

Mediums
Mediums Description
chromed and welded steel
Classifications
Keywords
  • Abstract
  • Architecture – vehicle – bicycle
  • Fantasy
Object Number
1984.124.122
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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