Brown, Joe


Joe Brown coached boxing and taught sculpture at Princeton.

Athlete, educator and artist, Joe Brown was gifted in many areas.

One of Brown's natural talents was boxing. Brown began his boxing career at Temple University and became the Amateur Athletic Union's (AAU) heavyweight champion. He was lured away from the amateur realm by the money and fame of the professional boxing world. His professional career was short-lived.

A boxing injury resulted in Brown's introduction to the world of art in 1929. He became a model for a sculpting class and soon realized he was interested in sculpting. That year he sculpted a boxer, his brother Harry, and a ballet dancer. All three works were accepted into the annual exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

After graduating from Temple University in 1931 with a bachelor's degree in education, Brown apprenticed to sculptor, physician, and educator Dr. R. Tait McKenzie. McKenzie often warned Brown, "Don't plan on making a living with your art, because if you try, you will be shaped by the fashions in art and cease to be an artist, because you will no longer work from the basis of personal experience." Brown heeded this advice and combined teaching and coaching with art.

In 1938, Brown was hired as Princeton University's boxing coach.

During his tenure as boxing coach, the Academic Dean of Princeton University, Christian Gauss, noticed a bronze statue of the champion swimmer Duke Kahanomoku on a desk. Guass was told the artist was Joe Brown - the boxing coach. Brown had kept silent about his artistic talent, fearing that the mix of art and athletics would be viewed as a weakness. Instead, this mixture was viewed as a strength and Brown became a Resident Fellow of Sculpture. He became a full Professor of Art in 1962 and retired from Princeton in 1977.

Throughout his career, Brown sculpted what he knew best-sports. His works in the National Art Museum of Sport include "Dropped, Antaeus, 1951," "Boxer Bandaging His Hand," and "Hurling." They were donated to the Museum by Dr. Louis A. Pyle, Jr., who had been a Princeton boxer and posed for "Boxer Bandaging his Hand." A bronze of a gymnast was recently given the Museum.

Veterans' Stadium, the former home of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles, was the site of four 16-foot bronzes by Joe Brown. With the construction of a new stadium, the bronzes have been installed as public art in other parts of Philadelphia. He not only sculpted works of sport, but also famous people such as John Steinbeck and Robert Frost.

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