Called "the greatest sculptor in Western Canada", our beautiful city of Vancouver features several sculptures by Austria-Hungarian artist, Charles Marega. Those two lions at the south end of the Lion's Gate Bridge were sculpted by Marega. The David Oppenheimer bust across from the park board office in Stanley Park was done by Marega (in honor of Vancouver's second mayor). Or the statue of Capt. George Vancouver situated at the north side of city hall, that, too, is a Marega piece. These are just a few examples of Marega sculptures that can be found around the city.
He was born in the town of Lucinico. He received his first training in Mariano, Italy, working in plaster, with further studies in Vienna and Zurich. In 1909 he and his wife, Bertha stopped in Vancouver, on their way to California. But the North Shore Mountains reminded Bertha of her native Switzerland, so they decided to settle in Vancouver. Marega lived and worked in Canada for the rest of his life.
Warren Harding Monument
One of the more unusual Marega pieces is the huge statue of President Warren Harding in Stanley Park. In July of 1923, President Harding became the first U.S. president to ever visit Canada. Just one week after leaving Vancouver, Harding died of a heart attack. The City of Vancouver was in mourning, and decided to have an international competition for a suitable monument. Marega won the competition, and in 1926 he unveiled his Harding monument, placed at the spot where Harding had given a speech.
The Lion's Gate Bridge Lions
By the time Marega began working on the lions for the Lions Gate Bridge in 1938, his life and career had already begun a slow descent. These were the years of the Great Depression. His wife had died in 1936, and he was constantly sad, and fell into poverty. Marega's two lion statues were done in concrete, and completed in January of 1939. Two months later, at the age of 67, Charles Marega collapsed, and died of a heart attack. He had $8 in his bank account.