|As noted in Part I, many civic sculptures of
Ulysses S. Grant were commissioned, modeled and installed during the
American Renaissance period and afterward. The works that remain in situ
provide a fascinating, varied set of illustrations of how artists, their
patrons, and by implication the broader public, viewed and commemorated
Grant. An incomplete, but representative, sample of those is described
in this article.
Let's start with the smallest scale examples, busts, and then move on to one of the largest-scale monumental statues, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, D.C. Then we will turn to some interesting examples that stand between these in scale, and often stand apart from them in terms of style, form, history and location.
There are many busts and other small-scale sculptures of Grant, some mass-produced and marketed around the time of Grant's death, others commissioned over the years in various materials from plaster to metals to resin.
Perhaps the finest Grant bust was one sculpted from life by Karl Gerhardt in 1885, while Grant was in the late stages of his fatal illness. Accordingly, the expression is sad and somnolent - this is an older Grant that Gerhardt then dressed in a general's blouse
|An 1885 bust by Bernard Dreyfuss has been a
standard. Dreyfuss also depicted an older Grant in military uniform.
Although the bust falls short of being a compelling work of art, it is a
quality piece - Grant's features are well crafted.
Visitors to Grant's Tomb in New York City encounter an attractive, small-scale equestrian of Grant by Paul Manship. Dating from 1928, it is a working model of a large equestrian intended for the plaza in front of the tomb that was never commissioned.
There are plenty of other examples.
One sits in the adjutant's office in the Old State Capital building in downtown Springfield, Illinois.
|Reproductions of Grant's death mask - Gerhardt made
the original in 1885 -also have been reproduced and marketed online in
Busts and other small-scale sculptures are often
displayed in public and vary greatly in size, but typically are those
works most suited for private consumption and display. Their size
enables close-up examination of features and easy re-positioning for new
views in differing light, revealing the artwork in new perspectives in
|In another sense, massive public sculptures are the result of political decisions: commissioning them is costly and time-consuming, so the placement of such works heralds perpetuity in terms of society and the political philosophies upon which it is based. Such seeming permanence is one reason why it can be so symbolically dramatic when figurative sculptures are destroyed. One is reminded of the news images of Saddam Hussein statues being pulled down during the Iraq War, or those of Stalin and Lenin being cast away after the meltdown of the Soviet Union, or images in our schoolbooks of American revolutionaries doing the same to statues of King George III.|
|Passive neglect also destroys public sculptures -
over the decades, many statues of Grant have been subjected to such
neglect and its destructive effects. And as we will see later, there are
other reasons why statues are destroyed.
Be that as it may, aesthetically, the intended permanence of materials like stone or bronze makes it highly challenging for sculptors to convey a sense of living motion and of a fleeting moment. When sculptors are able to do so, they may have a great work of art in hand.
Washington, D.C. Mall
To many observers, sculptor Henry Merwin Shrady's Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (dedicated 1922) just to the west of Capitol Hill, is such a work. The high equestrian with flanking groups captures battle action in disconcerting detail as well as the quiet strength of Grant.
In his insightful 2007 article about the Shrady
masterpiece, Washington Post reporter Paul Richard noted that as
colossal as it is, the memorial is still dwarfed by the U.S. Capitol
dome to the east and the mall to the west.
|However, Shrady's aesthetic achievement is not
dwarfed by the passage of time. Sitting atop a 22-foot-high marble
pedestal and the bronze horse, Cincinnati, there is Grant, hunkered down
against the elements, and resolute. He seems silent, utterly determined
and utterly dramatic. "The little man up there on his stallion
isn't politicking or writing, he's slaughtering relentlessly, overseeing
war," Richard wrote. The general is flanked by reclining guardian
lions and two bronze groups of cavalry and artillery troops in crashing
||Shrady's personal effort
to create this work was also utterly dramatic. Richard notes that the 20
years of unremitting labor it took to complete the ensemble killed the
sculptor. There are other personal aspects to this memorial - including
the fact that potential rivals Augustus Saint Gaudens and Daniel Chester
French were among the judges awarding the $250,000 Congressional
commission for the monument to the little-known, 31-year-old Shrady,
Donald Martin Reynolds wrote.
Dennis Montagna described the memorial as a marker of changing perceptions and memories of the Civil War. He wrote, "This kind of visceral portrayal of warfare was not typical of the 27 designs that sculptors and architects submitted in competition for the Grant Memorial project - nor was it typical of earlier Civil War memorials...
The Grant Memorial shares a context with a growing genre of war memorials that embodied the nation's changing ideas of the Civil War and its significance...These were attempts to sculpt an American everyman who would represent all who had died." Montagna added that "collectively, it is a memorial to Grant's generalship and also a memorial to the troops he commanded."
made another interesting observation: that Shrady's bronze groups
"don't only lead you back to classical antiquity, they also take you to
the movies. His sculptures, like the movies, offer horses at full
gallop, drama, ceaseless action, bugle calls, grunts and screams.
Shrady has set his art on an old aesthetic line that runs through the
white horses on the Parthenon, and through the bronze ones at San
Marco's, and then veers off toward John Wayne." Richard's interesting
comment thus speaks indirectly to the dramatically different ways in
which the media of sculpture and cinema communicate
Another one of the finest Grant sculptures is the equestrian (1897) in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. The piece was created by master artist Daniel Chester French (the horse was sculpted by French's longtime collaborator, Edward Clark Potter). French's overall work is placed in context in Part I. His biographer Michael Richman described in detail the process it took to commission, finance, model, and dedicate the memorial. That process, and the dedication ceremony itself, which was attended by President William McKinley (there evidently exists an early motion picture short of the actual proceedings. For more information CLICK HERE), illustrate the importance the era placed on such monumental public art. At least as illuminating is the work we are left with today - French's research, inspiration and astounding skill are richly evident.
Richman wrote, "French has skillfully rendered the stern expression of the commander as he intently surveys the battlefield. Grant sits motionless in the saddle, legs locked, while the horse stands quietly, its head bent from the slight tension of the reins. The sculptors have chosen to emphasize the momentary inactivity of the group. The horse and rider have become an integrated unit, and their posture heightens the mood of uneasy calm. However, the underlying potential for dramatic and sudden action is subtly accented. To convey the power of the general in such a confining situation was difficult, but the task was deftly handled."
French deftly handled another aspect: drawing an observer's attention to the richly detailed face of Grant. Reynolds wrote that French created a face here that "captured Grant's straightforward gaze through subtle manipulation of the fleshy passages around the eyes and beneath the finely knit brows..." The sculptor also drew attention to the thoughtful face, Reynolds described, by framing it with a broad-brimmed hat and an upturned collar of a cape that Reynolds nonetheless found too overbearing.
Reynold's and Richman's powers of observation are primers for reading' sculpture: They provide helpful introductions today, when people are inundated by mass media. But whether typical Americans of 1897 were able to read monumental public sculptures is an open question. Whatever the answer, French and Potter's skills are there.
French, as recounted by Richman, put in this way the goals for the piece: "We chose for our motif a moment when Grant was surveying a battlefield from an eminence and he is supposed to be intent upon the observation of the forces before him. The horse is... obedient to the will of his rider. We endeavored in the figure of Grant to give something of the latent force of the man, manifesting itself through perfect passivity. If the statue impressed the beholder by its force as having character and stillness, it will have fulfilled its mission."
|A final point about French's statue is important:
balance. Richman described the challenge the artist faced of rendering a
portrait here that was balanced. French pulled it off by balancing
naturalism with idealism, nature with communication. In other words,
accuracy is important, but not an end in itself but a means toward an
end: a compelling and convincing depiction requires a strategic,
well-executed balance between exactness and communicating a message,
say, about strength, honor or character.
This idea of balance was also evident in the Grant statue created for Grant Square in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, by William Ordway Partridge (1896).
Reynolds described Partridge's Grant as "down to earth and rumpled." Partridge's portrait displays equilibrium, or a "conflation of seeming opposites," in this case, Grant's "informal, almost casual manner which masked his celebrated traits of tenacity and determination," wrote Reynolds.
|Partridge technically achieved this "by
adroitly managing the vertical and horizontal components of horse and
rider." Grant appears "deceptively dispassionate" in
contrast to his inner strength and the animation and energy of the
horse, which is depicted flaring its nostrils and highly alert. Reporter
Francis Morrone wrote in the New York Sun in 2007 that "Partridge's
statue shows a war-weary general, an image more deeply affecting than
that of any peacock-proud hero." Incidentally, the fine work is
joined by another depiction of Grant, a relief sitting on a building
facade just meters away.
For more about Partridge and his statue, CLICK HERE
A different kind of balance is at play in the Grant and Lincoln equestrian reliefs (1893) occupying the inner abutments of architect John Duncan's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn (1892). Duncan, as many readers will know, was architect of Grant's Tomb. The Grant and Lincoln bronzes are by William O'Donovan; their horses crafted by legendary artist Thomas Eakins. Reviews of the figures have been mixed ever since, with their relatively small scale, placement and other aspects coming under fire off and on since the 1890s.
Be that as it may, O'Donovan achieved a kind of balance here in his depictions of the civilian and the military: On the civilian side, President Lincoln's figure has turned toward the viewer and removed his stovepipe hat in greeting. The politician is necessarily reaching out to the populace. Not so General Grant, who looks straight ahead - he does not acknowledge the viewer, instead concentrating on reaching his objective. It is an accurate attitude.
||Added to this is a distinctively modelled expression, instantly recognizable as Grant in a meditative state. Observers sometimes noted Grant's deeply pensive expression as he contemplated titanic problems and hard solutions during the war and White House years. O'Donovan seems to pay homage to this countenance, but does so with a face that does not appear to be melancholy. It is an interesting, individualistic sculpture.|
Read more about Hibbard and the Vicksburg statue at: http://battleofraymond.org/history/hibbard1.htm
Scale was the most evident factor of another Grant sculpture, this one in Chicago. Italian immigrant Louis T. Rebisso was the sculptor of the Grant equestrian, called the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (1891), in the city's Lincoln Park.
||According to the Chicago Tribune, the 18-foot-high
"colossal" sculpture cost $25,000 - which was raised in
private subscription. It was cast in bronze in Chicopee, Massachusetts,
and Chicago's Hallowell Granite Company constructed the formidable,
Grant's son Frederick Dent Grant considered it an accurate portrayal, but Rebisso's sculpture got mixed reviews, according to Ira J. Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray. Sculptor and art critic Lorado Taft (who had created a standing military Grant statue in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas in 1889) panned the Rebisso work for what he called its "complete lack of artistic distinction."
|Rivalries aside, there is a certain
static quality to the composition, a less-than-distinctive look to the
man on the horse, a "repose" that Grant's son, in fact, cited
as an asset, according to Bach and Gray. They wrote that "Later
portraits of Grant in other cities achieved greater artistic merit by
stressing a contrast between the calm rider and his alert charger."
The charger here, by the way, is a depiction of Grant's battle charger
Cincinnati, a Kentucky thoroughbred.
Even so, the effort and inspiration show in the form and especially, the selected site, of the sculpture. The statue is on a ridge along the Eastern edge of the attractive park. Grant overlooks Lake Michigan, perhaps 150 yards away, albeit on the other side of a parking lot beneath the statue foundation, a thin finger of the Diversey Harbor Lagoon, and a freeway, North Lake Shore Drive. Yet the site is striking.
||The park grounds immediately to the
west are dotted with statuary and filled with the occasional roars of
animals living in the park's zoo. In fact, the drama of the location was
abundantly clear on a visit there during a brilliant, warm and clear
morning in September 2007: a passing emergency vehicle set off an
impressive howl that was clearly that of a wolf, the lake shimmered in
the sunlight, and looking at the statue toward the west, the moon
appeared between the base and the belly of the sculpted horse.
At the risk of projecting too much, the astronomical glimpse was fitting, given that the exploration of the moon was a towering achievement of the American technological, economic and industrial powerhouse that Grant's victories in the Civil War did so much to secure and propel.
|St. Louis and Ft. Leavenworth
The St. Louis Grant statue (1888), one of the
earliest of Grant installed, today presides over a small park on the
north side of City Hall at the corner of Market and Tucker Blvd. (12th
The sculptor of the Ft. Leavenworth piece was the
aforementioned Lorado Taft (1860-1936), a leading artist, writer and
educator of the era. The bookends of the career of this gifted artist
were his important work at Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and
his opposition to the gathering abstract movement in art and sculpture
in the early 20th century.
The Grant statue (1890) in his hometown of Galena is an interesting example of the great American as citizen.
The sculptor was Johannes Sopius Gelert, a 38-year-old Danish immigrant who came to Chicago in 1887. Gelert also is known for his Hans Christian Andersen statue in Lincoln Park, his earlier Haymarket Riot Monument, and The Struggle for Work and other sculptures at the Columbian Exposition, all in Chicago. Incidentally, historians and scholars in the social sciences and critical cultural studies have singled out The Struggle for Work and the Haymarket as interesting artifacts of how economic class and the era's labor and social movements were perceived and expressed.
|Gelert had moved to New York City by the time he
won the Grant Galena commission. The piece was financed by Chicago
Times-Herald publisher Herman H. Kohlsaat, a former resident of Galena
and an early supporter of future president William McKinley.
Grant's widow, Julia Dent Grant, reportedly didn't like the General to be shown with a hand in his pocket, but approved of a model. The Galena City Council set aside park land for the full-scale version. The statue was dedicated on June 3, 1891.
Gelert convincingly depicts, as one legend on its base notes, Grant as a citizen. The posture is relaxed, perhaps revealing a man deep in thought. As with his other works cited above, Gelert created a realistic depiction, but yet seems to have honed only certain details in the figure. The statue does not depict a young president. Instead, the design represents Grant as he was while a private citizen in Galena, "as you knew himů," Kohlsaat reportedly told city officials while seeking approval of the statue. Several years ago, the Galena sculpture was complemented with a new statue of Julia Dent Grant, which was installed nearby.
A standing, marble Grant as victorious commander occupies a prominent place in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.
|The 1894 piece must be ranked as one of the finest sculptures of Grant. Sculptor Franklin Simmons depicted the Grant of Appomattox, victorious but modest, thoughtful instead of elated with his success. He holds Lee's sword of surrender unobtrusively to the side (In fact Grant pointedly, and characteristically, did not ask Lee for a sword at Appomattox). A tree stump connotes Grant's presence in the field. Grant is a young yet formidable leader here who contemplates the challenges ahead.||
|The piece was commissioned by the Grand
Army of the Potomac; Simmons crafted it in his studio in Rome. As Pamela
W. Hawkes wrote, the sculpture was shipped in 1894, but was later
rejected by the Joint Committee on the Library - the beef reportedly was
that it depicted Grant as too plump. Photos show at least one additional
Officials returned the first version to Rome, and Simmons, who was 55 at the time, sculpted a second version accordingly, a process that took another few years. The work was finally installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on May 19, 1900, in a ceremony attended by a number of members of Congress as well as Grant's widow, daughter and grandchildren. The figure "stands near the Rotunda's western entrance, appropriately flanked by the famous paintings The Surrender of Burgoyne and The Surrender of Cornwallis," noted the Proceedings of Congress for that day. Simmons, a native of Maine, also created at least seven other statues of statesmen for the U.S. Capitol, a series of other commissions in various American cities, and many works in Italy, where his work was praised by the royal family.
The Finished Sculpture
|His Grant is situated in the strongest period of
the sculptor's career. Simmons' "idealized neoclassical" work
entered this period about 1885. Before then, he created works that have
been described as well as "typical min-nineteenth-century
naturalism, with an abundance of detail of the attire rather than good
sculptural form." Simmons' work then reached a point when "his
statues (had) less emphasis on dress and more emphasis on good
composition, animated figures, and expressive faces," wrote James
M. Goode. Simmons' Grant shows these qualities.
Another standing Grant occupies a prominent position, again under a capitol dome, in Springfield, Illinois. According to Mark Sorensen of the Illinois State Archives, "it is one of eight perched on corbels in the rotunda below the inner dome. Each is hollow and made of base metal covered in bronze. They are about eight-feet high...The artists were Peter Poli, Edward Guitink and William Mali..."
|They have depicted an idealized Grant
the public official in a generalized study. Sitting high in the rotunda,
intricate details, and even physical exactness were left behind in favor
of Grant's recognizable visage, a sense of his determination and his
More than a century later, moves were made to add a Grant statue to the state capitol grounds. In 1999, a joint resolution was passed by both chambers of the Illinois Legislature to appropriate funds for a new statue of Grant, along with another of President Ronald Reagan. These resolutions evidently were nonbinding, and no governor has ever signed them, according to Dave Joens of the Office of Illinois' Secretary of State. Joens, a Grant enthusiast, adds that "neither the Secretary of State's budget office, which would have received the suggested appropriations, nor our physical services department, which would have been responsible for the creation and installation of the statues" were aware of the resolution in 2007. The matter could be picked up at any time, but would likely require citizens to urge lawmakers to take action.
Click at these links for information about the
Elsewhere in Springfield, a Grant in the wax museum tradition stands in the plaza of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, which opened in 2005. The Grant figure stands beside one of George McClellan near a false front of the Lincoln-era White House, and near a figure of Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
|The inspiration and goals of the entire museum
exhibit are admirable - special effects and the latest exhibit
technologies reach 21st century Americans viscerally, and start the
process of story-telling about the meaning of Lincoln and the Civil War
era. At times, the displays, such as one showing members of an enslaved
family being separated at auction, drive home the almost unimaginable
horrors of slavery with enormous emotional impact.
That being said, the figure of Grant is unfortunately flawed. It is almost unrecognizable, and is unconvincing in its posture. Grant's hair is wispy and long, his face grizzled. My first impression was that the face was modeled to show a hangover, although that may be an inaccurate projection on my part. Beside Grant, McClellan's figure stands in cartoon-like haughtiness. It would be interesting to stand in front of the Grant figure and compare it with photos of the general from the war years. This would reveal two very different visages, even allowing for the disparity of a turned-out Grant in the photographer's studio and a dusty one in the field.
Other depictions of Grant of varying degrees of quality occupy public spaces elsewhere, and not just in the United States.
Tourists from around the world encounter the Grant Monument and Trees in Tokyo's Ueno Park. During his world tour, Grant had an extended, historically significant visit to Japan, and as part of a civic ceremony in Tokyo, planted trees in the park.
|A fine plaque was later installed, featuring
Grant's visage in relief. It is a distinctive, deeply contemplative
portrait, perhaps modeled on Grant's death mask of 1885.
Tourists in Tokyo also encounter a very different representation of Grant - a wax figure in the Tokyo Tower's Guinness World Records Museum.
|In Africa, another lesser-known sculpture was
located for about a century in Guinea-Bissau. It was commissioned in
recognition of President Grant's 1870 arbitration of a heated dispute
over the former colony between Portugal and Great Britain. Grant decided
in favor of Portugal.
The standing Grant-as-president figure was erected
in the main square of the nation's capital city, Bissau, and survived
the destruction over the years of many sculptures that to local people,
represented the nation's colonial past. That is, until August 2007, when
the Grant sculpture disappeared, according to National Public Radio. It
was discovered in pieces - for probable use as scrap metal. Such thefts
are common in the nation. Local officials have discussed the possibility
of reassembling and replacing the statue.
|Closer to home, other statues are in Bellville,
Ohio; Muskegon, Michigan (located in Muskegon's Hackley Park, this
standing Grant was a gift of local businessman and philanthropist
Charles Hackley); Fort Defiance Park near Cairo, Illinois; and Golden
Gate Park in San Francisco. Each has its own aesthetics and history.
To sum up, tastes about aesthetics change over
time, compounding the challenge of creating art that is not just
compelling upon its unveiling - a supremely difficult task - but also
compelling through the years.
Sculptures of Grant will continue to undergo this process, a topic that Part III will now explore.
Bach, Ira J. and Mary Lackritz Gray. A Guide to Chicago's Public Sculpture. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983.
Fairman, Charles E. Works of Art in the United States Capitol Building. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1913.
Gillon, Edmund V. Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York: A Photographic Guide. New York: Dover Publications, 1988.
Goode, James M. The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C.: A Comprehensive Historical Guide. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974.
"The Grant Equestrian," The Chicago Tribune, February 6, 1887, p. 16.
"Grant in the Capitol," The Washington Post, August 7, 1894.
"The Grant Monument," St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 10, 1888. Francis scrapbook, vol. 20, p. 89, Missouri Historical Society.
Hamilton, Jeffrey. "Public Sculpture," in The Encyclopedia of Sculpture, ed. Antonia Bestrom, New York & London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004.
Hawkes, Pamela W. "Franklin Simmons, Yankee sculptor in Rome," Antiques July 1985, pp. 125-129.
Montagna, Dennis. "The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, D.C.: A Monument for the New Century," Army Times, July 2003.
Morrone, Francis. "The Richest Architecture in Brooklyn," The New York Sun, March 23, 2007.
Proceedings in Congress, On the Occasion of The Reception and Acceptance of the Statue of General Ulysses S. Grant, May 19, 1900. Washington, D.C.: Government Pritning Office, 1901.
Reynolds, Donald Martin. Masters of American Sculpture. New York, London & Paris: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1993.
Richman, Michael. "Ulysses S. Grant," in Philadelphia's Treasures in Bronze and Stone, Fairmount Park Art Association, Philadelphia: Walker & Company, 1976.
Yeakle, M.M. The City of St. Louis of Today: Its Progress and Prospects. St. Louis: J. Osmun Yeakle & Co., 1889.
Special thanks to Dave Joens, Office of the Secretary of State, State of Illinois; Frank Scaturro; Mark Sorensen, Illinois State Archives; Jason D. Stratman, assistant librarian, Missouri History Museum; Barbara A. Wolanin, Ph.D., curator, Office of The Architect of the U.S. Capitol; and the staff of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Main and Ricker Architecture and Art libraries.