Sunday, May 14, 2017

President Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Edwin Stanton and art of war

A patron admires Winslow Homer's "Skirmish in the Wilderness" steps from a sculpture of the 
man who commanded the Union army there.  (CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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John Rogers
I must have looked strange to the other patrons at the New Britain (Conn.) Museum of American Art, hovering around the small, plaster sculpture shooting images with my iPhone at odd angles. But "The Council of War" --  an amazingly detailed work of art of the architects of the Union army's triumph during the Civil War -- is fascinating subject matter.

In sculptor John Rogers'  1868 statuary, a calm Abraham Lincoln holds a map while Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant stand by the seated president. As I walked about the sculpture for 15 minutes or so, it seemed to change colors from off-gray to beige.

Of the three famous subjects, Grant easily was my favorite, looking resolute from one angle, compassionate from another.  While steps away another visitor admired Winslow Homer's beautiful oil-on-canvas  painting "Skirmish in the Wilderness," I shot a closeup of the general who sent so many soldiers to their deaths in those dense thickets in Virginia in early May 1864.

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  1. I have always admired Roger's sculpture. You can find more of his work in a collection in New Caanan CT. I believe the historical society of that town. Quite often these plasters and others of Rogers come up for sale since many were cast. The likenesses are spot on and compositions wonderfully executed. It could use a little clean up on the paint job, but in rather good condition.

  2. Interesting you presented this John, Lately there has been a lot of controversy about taking monumental sculptures down from their pedestals. One is Jefferson Davis in New Orleans and the other a General Lee statue because they promoted or fought for slavery. Personally as a sculptor myself and one who does not support their cause, I would still not take these pieces of history from view. To me taking a work down like this leads to blind censorship. Much like the taliban destroying 1000 year old sculptures in Afghanistan. Lets face it Columbus was much worse than Davis and Lee together. Lastly many of these statues, whether you like them or not were created by great American Sculptors. We owe it to their legacy to keep their work on view. So many of the statues created today do not have the strength and expertise that say Shrady or St. Gaudens had.