The Three Bares

Caryatid Fountain by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, gift of the artistOne of the most recognisable artworks in the collection, the Friendship Fountain, also known as The Three Bares, is a ten-foot marble statue and fountain featuring three nude men holding an earthen bowl. The Friendship Fountain is located in the green lawn space in front of the Arts Building and was created by the famed sculptor and New York City socialite Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.

The fountain has a unique story attached to it. Ellen Ballon, a student of the McGill Conservatory in the early twentieth century, left Montreal for New York and became an accomplished pianist (a bust of Ballon by Sir Jacob Epstein is on display in the Strathcona Music Building). While in New York, Ballon befriended Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and, as the legend goes, it was Ballon who advised Whitney to donate the fountain to McGill as a show of goodwill between the United States and Canada.

In 1931, New York Times editor John Finley presented the sculpture to McGill on behalf of the United States, and the Governor General of Canada, the Earl of Bessborough, accepted on behalf of Canada. Though donated in 1931, the installation of the fountain was not completed until 1933. Today, the Friendship Fountain is sometimes referred to as the Good Will Fountain, the Caryatid Fountain, the Whitney Fountain, the Three Graces, and most popularly, The Three Bares. Every September, the work stands as a backdrop to Orientation Week as hundreds of students gather in the area adjacent to the fountain to enjoy live music, food, and events put on by the student-run Open Air Pub.


Watch: The Story of The Three Bares, an Interview with Gwendolyn Owens, Director of the Visual Arts Collection. Video by McGill's Media Relations Office.