On a sunny day a rainbow may be viewed arching through the many jets and sprays that animate the full basin of figures that comprise Carl Milles’ Meeting of the Waters. The joyous sounds of splashing water rushing over the frolicking figures create a spirit of the dance, a presence that is as enlivening today as it was upon its installation. Exuberant, Meeting of the Waters is a figurative allegorical depiction of the Mississippi River, represented by the male figure, and the Missouri River, represented by the female figure. The water sprites, mermaids, and fish symbolize the seventeen main tributaries that enter into the two rivers.
In this sculpture Milles used bronze and water as the primary sculptural elements. At the same time, he allowed for the presence and interaction of air currents and sunlight to play upon the water and figures as a way of maintaining spontaneity. His fountain design included layouts for the systems of jets, to details of piping dimensions as controls of water velocity and patterns. The plaza is the result of an eleven year effort of Mrs. Louis Aloe to honor her late husband, who was a businessman and former president of the board of aldermen. She commissioned Milles, who presented his model titled Marriage of the Waters. Members of the Municipal Arts Commission objected to the nude bride and groom. The media pursued and caused a public outcry, even going so far as to publish a ballot for voting for or against “nudes for the plaza.” Finally, the title of the work was changed to Meeting of the Waters, and the now-beloved landmark was unveiled in 1940.
Dimensions: 15′ x 280′ x 75′
Year Completed: 1931-39
Material: Bronze and granite
Owner: City of St. Louis
Donor: Mrs. Louis Aloe, Howard Baer, public and private donors