Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

01 June 2016

Afternoon Delight With The Rocket Thrower

I had an Afternoon Delight today.  No, it didn't have anything to do with that.  This is a blog for PG audiences!

All right, that all depends on how you define PG.  Anyway, my afternoon delight was a short but sweet (ah, the cliches!) ride via a circuitous route to Flushing Medow Park.

Tosca seemed content to ride and fade into the background.  She had the chance:

I mean, if she wanted to camoflauge herself, could she have picked a better spot?

Actually, I think she looked quite lovely there.  The folks in the New York City Parks Department do a nice job.

Even if the arrangement had consisted entirely of lilies, Tosca would have been hiding in plain sight of this icon:

The Rocket Thrower clearly has his sights elsewhere.  Good thing:  He probably wouldn't want to see some of the things that go on right at his feet.  

For that matter, he probably wouldn't want to hear, either.  When he was unveiled, for the opening of the 1964-65 World's Fair (held in Flushing Meadow Park), some people said absolutely terrible things about him.  One of the most merciless was the New York Times art critic (who else?) John Canady described The Rocket Thrower as "the most lamentable monster, making Walt Disney look like Leonardo da Vinci".

Robert Moses, the "master builder" behind the Worlds' Fair, famously sneered, "Critics build nothing".  So, perhaps, it isn't a surprise that he tried to console Donald De Lue, the sculptor of The Rocket Thrower.  "This is the greatest compliment you could have," Moses said.  "[Canady] hates everything that is good."

Hmm...I'll admit, it certainly doesn't compare to Da Vinci or Michelangelo or Rodin.  Or even Brancusi.  But it fits into something like a Worlds' Fair, especially one in the age of space exploration.  And, on his lofty perch, nobody can take "selfies" with him!


  1. Rocket Thrower is a very interesting piece. He stands at the end of a long line that has roots in the French revolution. I would have guessed that he dated from the 30's. The artist (Donald de Lue) I see was born in 1893, so he matured then.

    If RT were transferred to Germany, people would wonder if the government has started to open up the warehouses where the art of the Nazi period is hidden away. But if he appeared in a Russian city, people would feel deeply nostalgic for the Soviet era. He represents an international style of public sculpture that has assumed many identities over the years.

    In the US the style was identified with "Progress", or "industrial Might". One can find many examples decorating structures from the 20's and 30's. Today I think people just stand in awe, but basically draw a blank trying to assign these works a meaning.

    A fine period piece, maybe more than a bit old-fashioned when it was made.


  2. Leo--It's funny that the piece was commissioned for the 1964 World's Fair. But, in terms of style, it could just as easily blended in with the 1939 World's Fair, also held in Flushing Meadows--for the reasons you mention.

    Isn't it funny how close WPA works were to the Soviet style of "realism"?