Trova collection added to WUSTL Modern Graphic History Library

St. Louis native Ernest Trova was internationally acclaimed artist, sculptor

The Washington University Libraries have acquired the archives of internationally recognized artist Ernest Trova (1927-2009).
The Trova Family Collection includes numerous adaptations of Falling Man, ranging from two-dimensional versions to small models like the one pictured to six-foot-long casting molds. (Credit: Washington University Libraries)
Trova’s archives, which will be housed in WUSTL’s Modern Graphic History Library, provide researchers a glimpse into his life and his art-making process.

The Trova Family Collection will be processed and made accessible to researchers and the general public within the next several months, with many of the materials to be digitally accessible as well.

“The collection gives a complete picture of his work,” says Skye Lacerte, curator of the Modern Graphic History Library. “The archival materials document his process, from inspiration, to conception, to planning, to fruition, to its reception, to its evolution into other forms, and finally its impact.”
Of particular interest among the sketches, models, photographs, casting molds, blueprints, correspondence and more that comprise the Trova Family Collection are items linked to Trova’s iconic series of paintings and sculptures known as Falling Man.

The series established the self-taught artist as one of the most highly acclaimed sculptors at work in the 1960s and ’70s, and many of those early fine art works are held by prominent institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York City and the Tate Modern in London.

A piece of the Trova Family Collection. (Credit: Washington University Libraries)
Trova’s influence on modern graphic history and devotion to St. Louis make his archival collection a fitting addition to the Department of Special Collections’ Modern Graphic History Library, Lacerte says.
During this period of great success in the New York and European art worlds, Trova, a St. Louis native, continued to live in St. Louis and remained closely connected to the community. In 1975, he donated 40 of his sculptures to Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis County, helping to transform what was at the time a little-known park into a popular tourist attraction.
By the 1980s, Trova’s critical acclaim had waned significantly, although his artistic output had not. When Trova left a well-established New York gallery to sign on with an inexperienced art dealer who turned out to be at odds with the artist, Trova’s reputation suffered.
A piece of the Trova Family Collection. (Credit: Washington University Libraries)

“For more than 20 years, the marketing of Trova’s art has been an impediment to the appreciation of the philosophical acuity that informed his most resonant paintings and sculptures,” writes Matthew Strauss, founder of White Flag Projects in St. Louis, in a recent catalog essay accompanying a survey of the artist’s work.
Trova maintained a deep interest in mass market culture and cartoons throughout his life. One of Trova’s first jobs was at the Famous-Barr department store in downtown St. Louis, where he attended to mannequins as a window dresser — and where his debut Falling Man exhibition was later held, rather than in an art gallery, during St. Louis’ bicentennial celebration in 1964.
“These aspects of Trova are part of why his collection fits within our scope,” Lacerte says. “He was a fine artist; yet he was also fascinated with, for example, Mickey Mouse.”
For more information about the collections housed at the Modern Graphic History Library, visit or call (314) 935-7741.
In a space next door to the West Campus Library (where the Modern Graphic History Library is located), a selection of Trova’s original artwork will be on display and for sale by the Ivey-Selkirk company.

Called the Trova Project @ Ivey-Selkirk, the space will open Monday, Feb. 13. The gallery entrance is located immediately to the right of the Ivey-Selkirk space (7447 Forsyth Blvd.). Hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For more information, contact Mark Howald at (314) 726-5515.

About Washington University Libraries

The Washington University Libraries’ 12 libraries (10 on the main Danforth Campus, one at the Medical School and one at West Campus) house 4.5 million books and periodical volumes.

Among the Libraries’ many strengths is a collection of contemporary German literature unparalleled anywhere outside Germany; extensive holdings in vernacular Chinese literature and history; and exceptional special collections in modern literary manuscripts, rare books, documentary film and 20th-century illustration.