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Clayton
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Gates of Opportunity

Gates of Opportunity

Artist: George Julian Zolnay, Hungarian, b. 1863, d. 1949
Title: Gates of Opportunity, 1909
Media: reinforced concrete (now fiberglass) and
limestone pylons
Dimensions: 49' h., 15' w., 10' d.
Owner: City of University City, commissioned by E.G. Lewis

About the Work

On either side of Delmar Blvd., just west of the commercial district called the Loop, stand the gatekeepers to University City. Perched on their 40-foot limestone pylons, two massive feline figures recline high above the heads of pedestrians and motorists. Presently engulfed by mature trees that partly obscure the viewer’s line of vision, these reclining cats were two of the only structures visible for miles at the time University City was first being subdivided from acres of pastureland.

The artist, George Julian Zolnay, began work on the Gates of Opportunity with an 18-inch-tall plaster model from which his assistants made the nine-foot high clay animals. Later Zolney himself added final surface details. Plaster molds were made of each animal but the statues were so large they required 26 sectional pieces to make the molds. The artist insisted that the larger pieces be cast in place on top of the pylons. Iron armatures were constructed to his specifications and buckets of wet concrete were manually lifted and poured on site. When completed, the statues weighed nearly eight tons each.

Zolnay, a native of Hungary, came to New York in 1892 after studying at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and the Royal Academy in Bucharest. He played a prominent role in the design of the sculpture exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair. In the next few years he received commissions to design the statue of Pierre Laclede on the grounds of the St. Louis City Hall and the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park. He remained in St. Louis to teach at Washington University and later at Lewis’s Art Academy. Eventually he settled in Washington D.C.