Memorial service for innovative sculpture professor Julius Schmidt set for Aug. 11

UI faculty and staff encouraged to share memories
Monday, July 31, 2017

Julius SchmidtA memorial service for University of Iowa Professor Emeritus of Sculpture Julius Schmidt is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11 in the Kirkwood Room, 515 Kirkwood Ave. in Iowa City, next to Lensing Funeral & Cremation. The service begins at 4 p.m. and will be followed by a reception.

Schmidt, whose contributions to the art world and to the countless students he mentored garnered him the unofficial title “grandfather of cast iron sculpture,” passed away June 20 at the age of 94.

Schmidt’s family encourages UI faculty and staff who knew him and who plan to attend the memorial to share brief memories during the short service.

Schmidt accepted a position as head of the UI graduate sculpture department in 1970 and he remained here until his retirement in 1993. 

He mainly worked in cast iron and bronze, and his work reflected influences of ancient cultures, natural forms, and the machinery of the modern age. Synthesizing these elements, his sculptures were an exploration of the dichotomy between the natural and the mechanical. It was both an ancient and futuristic vision, as well as a representation of man’s place within a technological world. 

Schmidt first introduced iron casting into the academic environment in the early 1960s when he was teaching at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Prior to the 1960s, most artists had to rely on commercial foundries to cast their sculpture. According to Schmidt, “entrusting the casting to foundry men, the sculptor never learned all he should about materials and processes and thus the range of his imagination and achievement was inhibited.” Through Schmidt’s drive for innovative techniques, such as adapting from industry the core sand process of mold making, combined with his intense dedication to research and his knowledge about materials and processes, he succeeded in putting the cast metal process directly into the hands of the sculptor.

In 1998, Schmidt received the Outstanding Educator Award from the International Sculpture Center. He received numerous other awards and honors, including being one of the artists represented in the 1959 exhibition, Sixteen Americans, at the Museum of Modern Art and receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964.

More about Schmidt’s life is available at

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.