|It began as a kindly, thoughtful act of a humble
man. Carroll L. Moores was an elevator operator who worked in
Salems State Supreme Court Building and wanted to do something
to honor the gallant souls who founded Oregon. In 1938, at this
death, he left his lifes savings of $25,000 to pay an
annuity to friend, with the residue for a monument or memorial
to be erected in memory of the early Oregon pioneers.
By 1953, the sum prudently invested had grown to $34,000.
Expert advice was summoned - Thomas C. Colt Jr., Director
of the Portland Art Museum, and former Portland resident Pietro
Bellushi, Dean of Architecture of M.I.T. They found Salem
was already supplied with statues of pioneers, culminating
in the one on the top of the Capitol building. Why not pay
homage to pioneers more subtly? Colt and Bellushi suggested
the purchase of the statue called "Venus Victorieuse"
by Renoir from the Valentin Gallery of New York for $18,000.
Salem would be among the few cities of its size (population
44,000) to possess a work of this distinction, so universal
in spirit and appeal. Venus was bought and paid for, and her
"picture" was published.
Thats when the uproar happened. The Capital Journal
newspaper called her "fat and naked". Sports fans
said she had a sturdier figure than the outfielders of the
local ball team. Womens clubs thought it was undignified.
Defenders were drowned out-Frederick Littman said this was
a distinctive rather than a routine way of honoring Oregon
pioneers. Colt said she was symbolic of "woman as the
mother of the race." Art teachers tried to get in a few
words; so did ex-Governor Sprague. But the uproar grew. People
whose only acquaintance with Carroll Moores was probably going
between floors on the elevator decided Carroll never would
have approved of this.
Mr. Putnam, publisher of the Capital Journal newspaper, loved
a community fight and this was a beauty. His concluding comment
was, it was "just another art lover sneer at Salem for
rejecting an unsuitable memorial to Oregons early pioneers.
It was not prudery on the part of Salem citizens. The valuable
free national publicity for Salem is appreciated. For most
part, of our citizens prefer sneers to Venus as a pioneer
An answering editorial in the rival Salem Oregon Statesman
newspaper concludes, "If we want to capitalize on this
publicity, perhaps we should set up a base, bearing the label
"Venus Unvictorieuse". The Capital Journal newspaper
also presents a letter from the Council of National Sculpture
Society emphasizing the unsuitability factors."
A more suitable statue by Salem public vote was created by
Avard Fairbanks of Salt Lake City. Salems choice is
called "Guidance of Youth" and presents a pioneer
father with a hoe, a pioneer mother property attired with
skirt sweeping the ground and a pioneer youth. This group
statue is sited in Bush Parks southeast corner quite
off the beaten path.
"Venus Victorieuse" was purchased by Victor Carter,
a businessman and art collector of Los Angeles, who loaned
her to the Los Angeles County Museum, to San Francisco, and
finally to Portland Art Museum where she was purchased and
remains to this day. If the benefactor and retired elevator
operator, Carroll Moores had been around to hear all the uproar,
the retired elevator operation probably would have commented
that life has its ups and downs.
Compiled by Monica Mersinger
Marion County History, Volume XV, page 162-163.