Eleanor Roosevelt, 1992-1996
Northwest corner of the intersection of Riverside Drive and 72nd Street, at
the entrance to Riverside Park.
At the entrance to Riverside Park at 72nd Street and Riverside Drive, there is
an elevated circle of ground, rising into a small hill, and planted with low bushes.
In the middle of this circle is Eleanor Roosevelt, leaning comfortably against a rock,
lost in thought. She is larger than life (about eight feet tall), and her presence is
strong, but unimposing. There are three oak trees planted around her, one on each side
and one behind. The presence of the trees makes the figure appear to be in a wooded
area, although still clearly visible from the street.
The figure of Eleanor Roosevelt seems to be somewhere in between young and old.
One reviewer has described this quality by saying "the body is clearly that of a
younger Eleanor Roosevelt, while in the face is expressed the wisdom and compassion
we know from her maturity" . Roosevelt is calm, but contemplative, her brow slightly
furrowed as she looks off into the distance. She rests her chin on her left hand, with
her right arm folded across her body and her legs crossed. She is not posed for a picture
or a public appearance—rather, Penelope Jencks has chosen a natural, everyday position for
her figure, making Roosevelt accessible as a person instead of as a prominent international
The circle of ground on which Eleanor Roosevelt stands is surrounded by
sidewalk, making it easy to walk around the entire sculpture in its environment.
There are also benches around the edges of the sidewalk, both next to and behind
the sculpture, leaving the area in front open to the street.
On the sidewalk in front of the sculpture is a stone engraved with a quote from
Eleanor Roosevelt: "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small
places, close to home. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks
equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity.—Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958."
The commissioning and placement of Eleanore Roosevelt was part of larger
project which included the re-landscaping of Riverside Park around 72nd Street, and
the removal of an old entrance ramp to the West Side Highway. The cost of the entire
project was shared by New York City, New York State, and the private Eleanor Roosevelt
Monument Fund organization .
Possible discussion themes
How are women represented in New York's public sculpture?
There are plenty of images of women in New York's public sculpture, but very
few of them are actually representing real people. There are many allegorical
figures (for example, in the
Statue of Liberty,
The Four Continents,
General William Tecumseh Sherman...).
There are also general figures of women that represent people,
but not one person in particular (for example, in
There are figures of female literary characters
(Mother Goose and
Alice in Wonderland).
But compared to the number of statues of prominent male figures in New York City,
there are very few sculptures of memorializing womenI have come across only
four: Eleanor Roosevelt,
Joan of Arc,
Gertrude Stein, and
How have the styles and ideas behind memorial sculptures changed over time?
There are many ways in which artists can create a sculpture that is a memorial
of a particular person. Early memorials tended to idealize their subjects, placing
them on high pedestals, out of reach, and above the viewer. More recent sculptors
have chosen abstract images to represent a person, or figurative themes that represent
some aspect of a person's character. Eleanor Roosevelt is a memorial that
humanizes its subject. She wears everyday clothing; is placed on the ground, not
separated from the world by a pedestal; and stands in a natural position.
Related art works
Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc is another of the few sculptures memorializing women in New
York City. Dating from 1915, the piece is idealistic and grand, showing Joan of
Arc on horseback, her sword held high, ready for action.
General William Tecumseh Sherman.
The memorial to General William Tecumseh Sherman is highly idealized, plated
in gold, with an allegorical figure representing victory striding ahead of the
general's horse. A discussion comparing General William Tecumseh Sherman
with Eleanor Roosevelt could address the way the artists chose to present
their subjects, and how this affects the way the viewer relates to the sculptures.
This sculpture was created in memory of General William B. Donovan, but artist
Kees Verkade did not produce a rendering of General Donovan's face. Instead, he
designed a sculpture of two tightrope walkers, representing the courage and daring
for which General Donovan had been known.
- Shahn, J. (Winter, 1997). Penelope Jencks' Eleanor Roosevelt memorial. Sculpture Review. vol. 45, p. 28-9.
- Martin, D. (Oct. 5, 1996). Ex-First Lady's latest first: Statue in New York City park; Eleanor Roosevelt honored in hometown today. The New York Times. sec. 1, p. 25, col. 3.