Sneak peek: Statue of scientist W.F. Ganong takes shape

A larger-than-life statue of New Brunswick scientist, cartographer and geographer William Francis Ganong will soon be erected on the banks of the St. Croix River. 

The artist tandem commissioned by the Town of St. Stephen to sculpt the likeness of the intrepid member of the famous New Brunswick family will have their six-foot-eight work of art bronzed at a foundry in Quebec.

Fred Harrison and Darren Byers believe it will be ready for unveiling in St. Stephen by the end of May.

It's been a race for the duo since learning in late October that they had been chosen to create the statue more than two years after the committee behind the project asked sculptors to submit proposals.

It was a "pretty severe" deadline, Harrison told Information Morning Saint John on Friday, after the artists offered a sneak peek at their progress.

"He was posed on a rock in the middle of a lake," Harrison said of the reference photo used in their creation.

Mauran I. Furbish. New Brunswick Museum. 1987.17.1218.169

Ganong deviated from his family's chocolatiering roots and pursued botany, history and cartography. He's credited with defining much of New Brunswick's geographical boundaries.

His field work established that the province's highest mountain is Mount Carleton, which Ganong named after Thomas Carleton, the province's first lieutenant-governor.

He also mapped rivers, catalogued plant and animal life, measured the depths of lakes, and familiarized himself with the Mi'kmaq and Wolastoquey languages so he could study the history of their place names.

Mauran I. Furbish. New Brunswick Museum, 1987.17.1218.145

He also wrote histories of St. Croix Island, the New Brunswick-Maine border, and several communities in the province from Charlotte County to the Acadian Peninsula.

Harrison and Byers relied on two books for inspiration: Ronald Rees' biography of Ganong, New Brunswick Was His Country, and The Lost Wilderness by Nicholas Guitard.

"He was very intelligent, very inquisitive, very self-demeaning," Harrison said. "He devoted his life to gathering knowledge and making it available to people and didn't sing his own praises."

Fred Harrison/Submitted

Ganong who died in 1941 at the age of 77, taught botany at Smith College in Massachusetts for decades, but he returned to New Brunswick every summer for 50 years to hike and canoe the province.

Byers said David Ganong, chairman of Ganong Bros. who sits on the statue committee, approved of his great uncle's likeness. 

Harrison and Byers, both successful international artists, met about six years ago and began collaborating. One notable work is the workers' memorial at the Lily Lake Pavillion. Byers said the Ganong portrait presents a different challenge to capture the likeness and feeling of the man.

Fred Harrison/Submitted

They developed the armature and then created a foam core before using a clay veneer for detailing. Byers handled the head and hands, while Harrison tackled the rest of the body.

The final statue will be installed on the river's edge near the Garcelon Civic Centre.

Byers said: "He'll be looking up the St. Croix River, which is quite appropriate."