General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1903
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 . 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 .
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 . 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 .
Possible discussion themes
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
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.
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