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​Historic Knight Library: Art & Architecture

Guide to the art and architecture of the 1937 historic Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.

EDNA C. DUNBERG (1912-1936)


Edna Dunberg designed and sculpted the heads of the frieze on the facade of the historic Knight Library in collaboration with Louise Utter Pritchard.

Edna Dunberg in studio, School of Architecture & Allied Arts.
To her right is Oliver L. Barrett, professor of art, in charge of the sculpture program.

Edna Dunberg (left) and Louise Utter Pritchard, c. 1936. Courtesy of Shasta Pritchard Dawson.

Edna Dunberg

Edna Dunberg (seated) and Jean Sutherland in an Art studio, 1934.
Dunberg's sculpture is now located in the Architecture & Allied Arts Library.
Larger image.

Edna Christine Dunberg was born in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, on September 1, 1912, to Swedish immigrants Carl L. and Emma Dunberg.  In 1929, Mr. and Mrs. Dunberg and their four daughters moved to Eugene.  Mr. Dunberg was unable to work due to illness, possibly multiple sclerosis, and Mrs. Dunberg and the daughters worked at a cannery and as domestic help. In 1931, Dunberg began taking classes at the University of Oregon's School of Architecture and Allied Arts. Since she had never completed high school, she concurrently enrolled in UO's high school completion courses.  Dunberg’s skill as an artist was quickly evident; while taking university courses in the day, she taught night courses in pottery and sculpture.  In 1934, Dunberg was hired by the Public Works of Art Program to make art and teach, and in 1935 she was among the artists hired by the WPA, the successor of the PWAP, to provide decorative elements for the new library.  She was assigned to the project to create the heads for the frieze planned for the library’s façade.

On February 27, 1936, Dunberg was incapacitated by severe back pain. By this time she had completed ten of the fifteen heads, and she believed the pain was caused by repeatedly lifting these objects which weighed approximately 60 pounds each.  In March, her friend Louise Utter Pritchard assumed primary responsibility for completing the heads project.  When Dunberg began to experience mobility problems, along with the continued pain, she entered Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland for treatment which consisted of wearing a cast for several weeks for an ailment that was difficult to diagnose since x-rays did not reveal the problem. The cast did not help the situation, and upon its removal, doctors discovered that her spine was being destroyed by cancer.  Edna Dunberg was 24 years old when she died on July 21,1936.  Louise Utter Pritchard completed work on the heads.

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SOURCES

"Edna Dunberg Improves." Oregon Daily Emerald, April 14, 1936.

Gabriel, Bob.  "Faces on the Wall; From the '30s: The Tragic Tale of UO Student Edna Dunberg, Who Sculpted the Faces Shown Here."

"Professor Dunn Displeased by Head of Aristotle." Oregon Daily Emerald, February 25, 1936, 1. Dunn, head of Latin department, complains that Aristotle should have a beard.  Dean Lawrence refused to discuss the representation with Dunn.

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

Aristotle

Aristotle

John Locke

John Locke

Thucydides

Thucydides

Buddha

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ

Michelangelo Buonarotti

Michelangelo Buonarotti

Ludwig von Beethoven

Ludwig von Beethoven

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri

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