Modern Sculpture In America
( Originally Published 1896 )
EARLY ATTEMPTS. Sculpture in America, if we except the works of native Indians and of the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas, as not properly within the scope of this volume, is the pro-duct of the present century. During the eighteenth century we know only of a Mrs. Patience Wright (1725-1785), of Borden-town, N. J., who was skilful enough in the execution of wax figures to have her wax statue of Lord Chatham admitted to Westminster Abbey, and John Dixey, an Irishman who came to America from Italy in 1789, and made the figures of Justice for the City Hall, New York, and the State House, Albany. An ardent Italian Republican, Giuseppe Cerrachi, came to this country in 1791 with the design for an elaborate monument to Liberty. It is thus described : " The Goddess of Liberty is represented descending in a car drawn by four horses, darting through a volume of clouds which conceals the summit of a rainbow. Her form is at once expressive of dignity and peace. In her right hand she brandishes a flaming dart, which, by dispelling the mists of error, illuminates the universe ; her left is extended in the attitude of calling upon the people of America to listen to her voice." Although Washington headed the subscription for the monument, the money was not raised, and thus we escaped a Berninesque foundation in the history of American sculpture. Cerrachi left behind him excellent busts of Washington, Hamilton, Clinton, Paul Jones, and John Jay.
The distinguished French sculptor, Houdon, visited the United States in 1785, but remained too short a time to leave a permanent impress. William Rush (1757–1833 ), of Philadelphia, carved in wood and modelled in clay, self-taught. His bust of Washington is in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and his wooden Water Nymph, now transferred to bronze, decorates Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Another pioneer, John Frazee (1790-1852), of Rahway, N. J., who had nev r seen a marble statue until 1820, made a bust of John Wells for Grace Church, New York. This is recorded by Dunlap as the first marble portrait made by a native American sculptor. He also made busts of Daniel Webster, John Jay, Judge Prescott, Hon. John Lowell, Chief Justice Marshall, and others.
THE CLASSICAL SCHOOL. The foundations of American sculpture are to be found in the classical school of Canova and Thorwaldsen. This was the school that shaped the energies of Greenough, Powers, Crawford, Browne, Story, Ball, Randolph Rogers, Rinehart, and Harriet Hosmer.
Horatio GreenOugh (1805-1852), an accomplished and scholarly Bostonian, led American sculptors to Rome. In the spirit of Thorwaldsen he remarked.: " I began to study art in Rome ; until then I had rather amused myself with clay and marble." His Chanting Cherubs, the first marble group by an American sculptor, was also a challenge to the American prejudice against the nude, and paved the way for his statues of Venus Victrix and of Abel. His dignified statue of Washing-ton, conceived as an Olympian Zeus, was greeted with some intolerance by his countrymen. More thoroughly national in spirit was his group The Rescue, representing a settler rescuing a woman and child from a savage Indian. Refined and excellent were his busts of Washington, Lafayette, John Quincy Adams, and Fenimore Cooper. Hiram Powers (1805-1873), of Vermont, after having made realistic wax figures in Cincinnati, took up his residence in Italy. He was ingenious and independent rather than original, and won recognition by faithful, honest work. There was a touch of tender melancholy in his Eve Disconsolate, the Last of the Tribe, and in his Greek Slave. When the last-named statue was first exhibited in Cincinnati, a delegation of clergymen was sent to judge whether it were fit to be seen by Christian people. Its purity of sentiment and harmonious form established its right to exist, and he made six replicas of it. His bust of Edward Everett, at Chatsworth, was admirable. Hardly inferior to this were his busts and statues of Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Webster, and Calhoun.
Thomas Crawford (1813-1857), more gifted and original than Powers, studied in Italy under Thorwaldsen. His earliest work, the Orpheus in Search of Eurydice, seems to have been inspired by his study of the Niobe group in Florence ; and his latest, the bronze door of the Capitol at Washington, by Ghiberti's baptistery gates. His colossal Liberty for the dome of the Capitol was conceived in the classical spirit, but the romanticism peculiar to America shows itself in the pedimental group at Washington of the Indian mourning over the Decay of his Race, and in the Indian Chief, in the New York Historical Society Collection. His Beethoven in the Music Hall, Boston, and his equestrian statue of Washington, at Richmond, both in bronze, were cast in Munich. Ball Hughes is credited with having made the first statue cast in bronze in this country. This is the monument of Dr. Bowditch, in Mount Auburn Cemetery. His marble statue of Alexander Hamilton, destroyed by fire in 1835, is similarly credited as one of the first marble statues carved by an American sculptor. Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886), though he went early to Italy, was not a classicist in spirit. He felt strongly that American art should treat of American subjects.
His best energies were devoted to the equestrian statue of Washington, in Union Square, New York, which was cast at Chicopee, Massachusetts, and set up in 1856. Even more successful is his equestrian statue of General Scott, in Washington.
Erastus Dow Palmer (1817—) evinced the spirit of lyric poetry in his idealistic sculpture. He treated such subjects as the Infant Ceres, the Sleeping Peri, the Spirit's Flight, Resignation, Spring, the Angel of the Sepulchre. His Indian Girl, representative of the dawn of civilization, and his White Captive, suggestive of the dangers encountered by pioneer life, were universally popular. William Wetmore Story (1819—1896), an accomplished writer as well as sculptor, has produced a series of cold, correct, pedantic statues, such as the Cleopatra, Semiramis, Medea, and Polyxena of the Metropolitan Museum, New York. In these works the classical spirit is already waning, and the American not at all apparent. Thomas Ball (b. 1819), less accomplished than Story, has long lived in Florence, without losing his Americanism. He produced a few ideal works, such as a statue of Pandora and a bust of Truth, but was more successful in historic and portrait sculpture, as in his faithful equestrian statue of Washington, in the Boston Public Garden, and in his Daniel Webster, in Central Park, New York. Randolph Rogers (1825-1892), of Virginia, learned his art in Rome. His Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii, a figure of somewhat labored gracefulness, enjoyed a wide popularity. His bronze doors for the Capitol at Washington illustrated the Life of Columbus. He made a colossal America for Providence, R. I., and a figure representing the State of Michigan for Detroit.
Two of the most thorough classicists among American sculptors have been Rinehart and Harriet Hosmer. William Henry Rinehart (1825—1874) may be best studied in the Rinehart Museum of the Peabody Institute, Baltimore, though the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, contain a number of his works. His Clytie, in Baltimore, may well be classed with Power's Greek Slave, and his seated statue of Chief Justice Taney, at Annapolis (and its replica in Mount Vernon Square, Baltimore), is one of the most successful public monuments in the country. He left a fund which has recently become available and is to be devoted to the education of sculptors in Rome.
Miss Harriet Hosmer (b. 1831) became the favorite pupil of the English sculptor Gib-son in Rome. With masculine vigor, she produced a series of statues such as Hesper, (E n o n e , Puck, the Sleeping F a u n, Zenobia, and Beatrice Cenci, and busts of Daphne and Medusa. She was the last representative of the classic school.
Other American sculptors, who flourished before the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, were Henry Dexter (b. 1806), Joel T. Hart (1810–1877), Shobal Vail Clevinger (1812–1843 ), Joseph Mozier (1812–1870), Edward Sheffield Bartholomew (1822 1858), Benjamin Paul Akers (1825–1861), J. A. Jackson (1825–1879), Thomas R. Gould (1825–1881), John Rogers, C. B. Ives, Henry J. Haseltine, Edward Augustus
Brackett, Daunt Thompson, Mrs. Dubois, Margaret Foley,Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis, Vinnie Reams, and Blanche Nevin. These sculptors by no means confined themselves to classical themes. Biblical subjects frequently occupied their attention, and also contemporary portraiture. John Rogers devoted himself to genre subjects, and produced an immense number of statuettes, many of which, inspired by the late Civil War, enjoyed a wide but short-lived popularity.
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN SCULPTORS. During the last quarter of a century the influence of Italy has been slight upon American sculpture, and the classic tradition of Rome has been declining. Preston and Longworth Powers, sons of Hiram Powers, and Waldo Story, son of W. W. Story, carry on the conceptions of their fathers. William Couper, of Florence, has done some charming work, especially in relief, but has not yet attained the position of his father-in-law, Thomas Ball. Louis T. Rebisso (1837-), of Genoa, though a professor of sculpture for more than thirty years, has not been influential in directing American art.
Nor has Germany, in spite of the number of her colonists in this country and the fame of her schools of art, made any lasting impress upon American sculpture. Moses Jacob Ezekiel (1844-), of Richmond, Va., received his early training in Berlin, and his marble group of Religious Liberty, in Fair-mount Park, Philadelphia, is thoroughly German in character. But since 1874 he has resided in Rome, and his Eve, Pan and Amor, Mercury, and other statues are more Italian than either American or German. Ephraim Keyser (1850), of Baltimore, was educated in Munich and Berlin. His statuette, the Toying Page, shows his German training, as does also his statue of Psyche. But full of character and refinement are his portrait busts made since his return to America.
An American of the sturdy type, little moved by foreign influence, is the President of the National Sculpture Society, John Quincy Adams Ward (1830-). Trained by H. K. Brown, Ward treated with success such subjects as the Indian Hunter, The Freedman, The Pilgrim, The Private of the Seventh Regiment. His masterpiece is the noble statue of Henry Ward Beecher, in Brooklyn.
It is to Paris that the younger contemporary sculptors have looked for technical training and for inspiration. Paris has vitalized and transformed American sculpture as thoroughly as did Italy in the first half of the century. Like a fresh breeze upon calm waters was the statue called La Premiere Pose, exhibited by Howard Roberts (1845-), in the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Sentiment and expressive modelling here replaced the beauty of mere external form. But, unfortunately, the sentiment of Roberts was not strong enough to carry him beyond the romantic stage in which he produced statues and statuettes of Lucille, Hypatia, Hester Prynne, and Lot's Wife.
Olin Levi Warner (1844-1896), an American refined by Parisian training, has shown himself capable of producing strong, characteristic busts, as those, for example, of Daniel Cottier and of J. Alden Weir, and significant portrait statues, such as those of Governor Buckingham of Connecticut, and of William Lloyd Garrison, in Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. He has also made charming female heads, like that of Miss Maud Morgan, and graceful figures, such as his statue of Twilight. His fountain at Portland, Oregon, should be reckoned as a classic production of modern American sculpture. Excellent, also, is his work in high-relief, such as the head of Arnold Guyot in the chapel of Princeton University, and the medal-lions of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Velasquez, and Rembrandt on the entablature of the Columbian Museum, Chicago.
Augustus St. Gaudens (1848-), of New York, trained like Warner in the Ecole des Beaux Arts, has been a powerful factor in bringing American sculpture to its present state of excellence. In both of these sculptors there is something of the Greek, as distinguished from the Graeco-Roman spirit, Warner possessing the more Doric and St. Gaudens the more Ionic temperament. The low-reliefs of the sons of Prescott Hall Butler, by St. Gaudens, are especially charming. The caryatids for the mantelpiece in the house of Cornelius Vanderbilt in New York, and the angels for the tomb of Governor E. D. Morgan, the models of which were unfortunately destroyed by fire, partake also of Ionic grace. The same charm penetrates the wall-relief of Dr. Bellows in All Souls' Church, New York, and the more vigorous relief of President McCosh in the Princeton University Chapel. But the power of St. Gaudens is not the capacity of throwing an external charm about his productions, he is strong also in the expression of individual character, as we may see in his excellent statue of Admiral Farragut in Madison Square, New York; in the Lincoln statue in Lincoln Park, Chicago; in the statue of Deacon Chapin, called the Puritan, in Springfield, Mass. ; and in the high-relief of Colonel Shaw which has just been completed for Boston.
Daniel Chester French (1850-), of New Hampshire, early attracted attention by his bronze statue of The Minute Man at Concord, Mass., unveiled in 1875. After having passed through a period of bread-winning production, French has risen to a high rank among American sculptors in his colossal statue of The Republic for the Columbian Exhibition, in his remarkable relief of Death and the Sculptor, and his group of Gallaudet teaching a Deaf Mute. His statue of General Cass, his reliefs of angels for the Clark Memorial, and his John Boyle O'Reilley Memorial group are works of decided merit.
More thoroughly Parisian in sentiment is Frederick W. MacMonnies. Although the pupil of St. Gaudens, his manner is nervous and at times strained, as, for example, in his statuette of Diana. His statuettes of the Boy and Heron, Pan of Rohailion, and the Bacchante and Child are fascinating examples of expressive, living sculpture. His statue of Nathan Hale, in the City Hall Park, New York, is one of the best of our civic statues; and his great fountain in the Court of Honor at the Chicago Exhibition, though somewhat lacking in simplicity, was nevertheless a splendid product of the Franco-American imagination. Herbert Adams, of Brooklyn, shows his indebtedness to St. Gaudens in his bronze Angel for Emanuel Baptist Church, Brooklyn, and in his marble bas-relief for the Judson Memorial Church, New York. But almost alone among our sculptors, Adams has turned to Florence of the fifteenth century for his inspiration. His delicately colored female busts, and his relief en-titled An Orchid, have an exquisitely refined Florentine charm.
The list of promising sculptors in America is by no means exhausted with the names we have mentioned. There are Edwin F. Elwell, whose Dickens and Little Nell and whose statue of General Hancock for Gettysburg, entitle him to be remembered ; William Ordway Partridge, author of the fine bronze statue of Hamilton, in Brooklyn, and of the Shakespeare in Lincoln Park, Chicago; Charles H. Niehaus, designer of the Hahnemann Memorial for Washington, D. C. ; Thomas Shields Clarke, whose Cider Press at the Columbian Exhibition was an original and meritorious production; Paul Bartlett, author of the Bohemian in the Metropolitan Museum; F. Wellington Ruckstuhl, who in such works as Mercury teasing the Eagle of Jupiter mingles the facility of a Frenchman with the fidelity of a German; J. Massey Rhind, who in his competitive figure for the American Surety Company's Building, New York, and in his Learning enthroned amid the Arts and Sciences of the facade of Alexander Hall at Princeton, N. J., has exhibited great skill in figured architectural decoration; Karl Bitter and Philip Martiny, who modelled the decorative figures for the Administration and Agricultural Buildings at the Chicago Exposition ; John J. Boyle and :Lorado Taft, who decorated the Transportation and Horticultural Buildings; Edward Kemys and A. P. Proctor, our most sympathetic interpreters of Indian and animal life; and George Gray Barnard, whose first works attracted much attention in Paris in 1894. Our contemporary sculptors have received from foreign countries inspiration and instruction rather than dominating influence. Their spirit is thoroughly American—honest, healthy, cosmopolitan, progressive, and refined.
EXTANT MONUMENTS. The sculptural monuments of America adorn our parks, public squares, churches, civic buildings, private collections, cemeteries, and battlefields. Some are found also in the Museum of Fine Arts and the Athenaeum, Boston ; the Metropolitan Museum, Lenox Library, and Historical Society, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia ; the Peabody Museum, Baltimore; the National Capitol and the Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington ; and the Art Museums of Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, and St. Louis.