General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1903

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Corner of 60th St. and Fifth Ave.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was an American sculptor who was trained in France. When he returned to the United States, he came with hopes of promoting an aesthetic ideal—something that he had seen happening in France [1]. (See the section on the City Beautiful Movement for more information about the early-1900s concept of creating an aesthetic ideal in United-States cities.)

Although the sculpture of Civil-War general William Tecumseh Sherman was commissioned in 1888, Saint-Gaudens, a well-established and much-sought-after artist, did not have time to focus all of his energy on the project until 1897. In creating the sculpture, Saint-Gaudens worked from a bust that he had completed years earlier [2]. The sculpture, which is made of bronze with a gold leaf surface, portrays General Sherman on horseback, striding forward, as his cape billows out behind. In front of the horse a woman walks forward, her right arm outstretched. This figure represents victory, and the palm branch in ther left hand represents peace [3].

Once the sculpture was completed, there arose some controversy as to where it should be placed. Saint-Gaudens, among others, wanted the sculpture to be located in front of Grant's Tomb. The relatives of both Grant and Sherman objected, however, and the artist conceded. Both the Central Park Mall and Times Square were also considered as possible locations, but the final decision placed the sculpture at the south-east entrance to Central Park, at the corner of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue [4]. The sculpture was unveiled in May, 1903.

A few years later, the sculpture was moved slightly from its original position as part of an effort to create an architecturally-planned public space in the area. This new design for the space included the building of the Pulitzer Fountain, located in an adjacent plaza to the sculpture of General Sherman. Karl Bitter, the designer of the Pulitzer Fountain, knew that the fountain would be placed across from General Sherman, and he took this into account in his design [5].

Possible discussion themes
What ideas or feelings are expressed when the artist uses the format of an equestrian statue? Saint-Gaudens chose to portray General Sherman on horseback—a style of statue that dates back to Roman times [6]. What aspects of General Sherman's life and personality are emphasized in this equestrial statue? What is de-emphasized?

How can sculptures be used in the design of public spaces? Looking at the space created between General Sherman and the nearby Pullitzer Fountain, how do the sculptures play a role in the definition of the space? How would the feeling of the plaza change if the sculptures were not present? What are other ways in which a public space might be defined and organized?

How are allegorical figures used in New York's public art? In General Sherman there is a female figure at the front of the sculpture representing victory. Many similar figures, usually female, appear in other sculptures around New York--for example, the Statue of Liberty and the Four Continents. Why have artists so often chosen to represent abstract concepts through allegorical figures? Knowing that there are very few sculptures in New York representing actual women, how might these allegorical figures affect the ways in which women are seen or the ways in which they see themselves?

Related art works
Pulitzer Fountain.
Located just across the street, this fountain was designed with the intention of creating an integrated public space at the corner of 59th street and Fifth Avenue. The designer looked to create a fountain that would work well with the sculpture of General Sherman, which was already there. Since it is possible to see these two works at the same time, students can discuss whether and how they compliment each other in the context of the public plaza.

Rolling Bench.
The attempt to place General Sherman at in front of Grant's Tomb caused controversy in the early 1900s. Some 70 years later, similar controversy appeared again. At the 100 year anniversary of Grant's death, the National Park Service sponsored the construction of a mosaic bench outside the tomb. Because the style was in such contrast to the austere architecture of the tomb itself, many historical preservationists found the bench inappropriate, and unsuccessfully appealed for its removal.

Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc, completed 12 years after General Sherman, is another war hero represented through the traditional format of the equestrian statue in New York. The sculpture shows Joan of Arc on her way into battle.


  1. Bogart, M. (1989). Public sculpture and the civic ideal in New York City, 1890-1930. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 20-22.
  2. Sharp, L & Kiehl, D. W. (1974). New York City public sculpture by 19th-century American artists. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 51.
  3. Gayle, M. & Cohen, M. (1988). The Art Commission and The Municipal Art Society guide to Manhattan's outdoor sculpture. New York: Prentice Hall Press. p. 191.
  4. Sharp & Kiehl, p. 51; and Bogart, M, p. 85-86.
  5. Sharp & Kiehl, p. 53.
  6. Reynolds, Donald Martin. (1988). Monuments and masterpieces: Histories and views of public sculptures in New York City. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. p. 113.

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