Friday, January 5, 2007

George Washington at Union Square: OMOM Essay 13

I've discussed the Washington at Union Square at length in "Getting More Enjoyment from Art You Love," The Objective Standard 1:2 (Summer 2006). In Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan, I focus on identifying the theme (a process I first mentioned in Essay 5, Charging Bull), and again address the question of what an artist achieves by "quoting" other sculptures. In this case, the sculptor quoted an equestrian portrait of Emperor Marcus Aurelius that has stood in Rome for millennia - largely because medieval Christians assumed it represented Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity (A.D. 312).

"About the Subject" describes Washington's ceremonial return to New York in 1783, after seven years of British occupation. For over a century that event was celebrated every November 25 as "Evacuation Day." The New-York Historical Society's website has an 1883 illustration of the flagstaff incident referred to in this essay.

Most photos of this Washington are taken from the east side. In the photo above, you can see why: if you're close enough on the west side to take a photo without a telephoto lens, Washington's arm blocks his face. If I backed off 10-20 yards, I could probably get a decent photo of that side using my new 12x optical lens and a tripod. For more on the problems of photographing sculpture, see my "Completely Unprofessional Notes on Taking Photos of Outdoor Sculpture" on

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