Saturday, February 24, 2007

John Ericsson (OMOM Essay 2): Out-takes and Discussion Questions

Here's an intriguing view of a sculptor's task in the early 20th c. written by Lorado Taft, an eminent American sculptor and art critic:

Though strongly drawn in the direction of ideal sculpture, Mr. Hartley has for some years past devoted most of his time to portrait busts, and he is now somewhat of a victim to his great reputation for this class of work. The public will not let him do anything else. A bust by Hartley is considered by many a synonym for the most precise and authentic characterization possible. Nothing could be more admirable than the conscience which the sculptor shows in these closely studied works. Nothing could be more penetrating. One submits to him with the feeling that the X-rays are to be turned on; that not only the uttermost wrinkle will be noted, but that the innermost thought is to be revealed. The sitter observes in the end with deep gratitude that professional etiquette has prevailed; the sculptor has not told everything, but it has been a narrow escape - he could have done so if he had wished to. … When Mr. Hartley is at his best he has few rivals, in this country at least, for close, intimate, unflinching characterization. Others may generalize, giving a phase of the man - a view that is effective and even masterful when seen in the proper lighting; but Mr. Hartley's searching studies present the very man himself - they will stand any light and any approach.

Click here for this and other bibliographical references from Essay 3 of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide.

1. The surface textures of MacMonnies' Nathan Hale, 1890 (OMOM Essay 8), and Partridge's Thomas Jefferson, 1914 (Essay 50), were both influenced by works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, most famous for his Thinker, 1880. Compare the surface texture of Ericsson to the texture of those works.

4. Do you agree with the following assessment of the cause of the Civil War, 1861-1865? What other causes have you heard suggested, and are they more essential or more concrete than this one?
Despite many complexities, one ideological issue was at the center of the conflict between the North and the South - individualism versus statism - and it took the form of one concrete alternative: individual freedom versus chattel slavery. Individualism - the dominant theme of the American Constitution - places the individual over a government that is strictly limited to the protection of the freedom of the individual. Statism, on the other hand, places the government over the individual, and enables the former to violate the rights of the latter. … (John Lewis, "William Tecumseh Sherman and the Moral Impetus for Victory," The Objective Standard, Summer 2006, p. 23; entire article, pp. 21-55)

Click here for more questions and suggested readings.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Statue of Liberty (OMOM Essay 1): Out-takes & Discussion Questions

I’ve just started uploading bibliographical references and out-takes for Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan to the Forgotten Delights website. In hopes that a book club or discussion group might get interested in the book (and buy multiple copies!), I’ve also made up a list of questions that I couldn’t cover in the published book, with suggested readings. Now the question is, which of that material shall I post to the blog?

One of the pleasures of researching 19th-c. sculpture is immersing myself in the 19th-c. sense of life, so let me give you one excerpt from a speech at Liberty’s dedication that didn’t make it into the book, and then a selection of the questions.

From orator Chauncey M. Depew:

[Monuments such as the Colossus of Rhodes] were all dwarfs in size and pigmies in spirit beside this mighty structure and its inspiring thought. Higher than the monument in Trafalgar-square which commemorates the victories of Nelson on the sea; higher than the Column Vendome, which perpetuates the triumphs of Napoleon on the land; higher than the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, which exhibit the latest and grandest results of science, invention, and industrial progress, this statue of Liberty rises toward the heavens ... It means that with the abolition of privileges to the few and the enfranchisement of the individual, the equality of all men before the law, and universal suffrage, the ballot secure from fraud and the voter from intimidation, the press free and education furnished by the State for all, liberty of worship and free speech, the right to rise and equal opportunity for honor and fortune, the problems of labor and capital, of social regeneration and moral growth, of property and poverty, will work themselves out under the benign influence of enlightened lawmaking and law-abiding liberty, without the aid of Kings and armies, or of Anarchists and bombs."
For more quotes from Liberty’s dedication, click here.

Assorted discussion questions:

1. Given Bartholdi's comments on the requirements of colossal sculpture, could any other sculpture described in Outdoor Monuments be successfully enlarged to 150 feet?
4. Re immigration: Are there any categories of foreigners who should not be allowed to enter the United States for reasons they were born with: race, physical or mental handicaps? What about other conditions they can't help: injury, disease?
5. Re immigration: Are there categories of foreigners who should not be allowed to enter the U.S. for reasons that involve their own choices, convictions, or beliefs, e.g. convicted criminals, advocates anarchy or terrorism, members of various religions, etc.?
8. What's the difference between Patrick Henry's view of immigrants and Emma Lazarus's view in her poem "The New Colossus"? [both quoted on the site]

For more discussion questions, click here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Win a Tote Bag or an 8 x 10" B&W Photo for Writing a Review

With a very limited marketing budget, it's a challenge to find inexpensive ways to promote Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan effectively. The best methods seem to be on the web and by word of mouth. For starters, I'm offering rewards to writers of what I judge to be the 10 best Amazon reviews to appear by the end of March 2007.

Winners can choose either a 13 x 13" black tote bag with an actual-size image of OMOM's cover (I have 5 of these), or an 8 x 10" B&W print of your favorite image from the book. To enter the contest, upload your review to Amazon and email a copy to me at

I am particularly interested in reviews that would make OMOM appealing to niche markets. If you're a history buff and you find the "About the Subject" sections particularly interesting, say that. If you're a fan of Ayn Rand and the discussions of esthetics interest you, go with that. If you're an artist, art teacher, or art student and think the book would be valuable for colleagues, say so. If you can make an informed judgment on the importance or innovativeness of this book for New York City sculpture, Ayn Rand's esthetics, the demolition of Penn Station, or any other relevant topic, go right ahead. If, like Alexander Hamilton (Essay 53), you're in love with New York and OMOM gave your more to love, by all means say so. If you can explain why non-New Yorkers would benefit from reading it, that would be a big selling point. If you are or have ever been a book-club member and can imagine a book club discussing OMOM and then studying sculptures in your town, say that.

According to marketing researchers, reviews and testimonials have more impact if the audience knows something about the writer. If possible, therefore, mention in your review that you've been a Civil War history reenactor for three decades, that you teach economics at the University of Tegucigalpa, that your favorite activity is strolling Manhattan on Sunday mornings looking for things to admire, that you have a shelf full of books on art or Ayn Rand …

The winning entries need not be long or ornately phrased - they need only be clear and to the point. State what you like about the book, and why others might like it as well.

Good luck!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan now in NYC bookstores

On Wednesday 2/14, Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan finally began to appear on the shelves of New York City bookstores. I dropped in at half a dozen Barnes & Noble locations and signed every copy they had on hand - look for the "autographed copy" stickers. You may have to ask a clerk to help you find the book; it never seems to be in the same subcategory of their New York shelves. Borders has copies on order, and I'll be dropping in to sign theirs next week. Over the next week I'll also be visiting many smaller, independent bookstores with copies of the New York Times and Sculpture magazine reviews in hand, asking them to carry it (if they don't already) and offering to sign copies. Employees at the independent bookstores often seem more interested in reading and recommending books than employees at the big chains, so just bringing the book to their attention might be helpful. One B&N employee already took advantage of my presence to ask me who that statue at the north end of Union Square represents. (Lincoln, Essay 15, although you'd never guess it from the back view.) Signing copies wherever I can is about the best way I've thought of to make up for the fact that the Times review appeared 3 weeks in advance of the day the books appeared in stores. Copies with autographed stickers get a little more attention, sometimes even face-out rather than spine-out display.

In tomorrow's blog: you, yes you, could win a fabulous Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan tote bag! Or, if you prefer, an 8x10 B&W print of your favorite OMOM sculpture. No, you do not need to be in New York City (10 degrees and 4 inches of icy slush) to enter or win.

Afterword and Appendixes of OMOM

In the Introduction to Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan I described how I became interested in art history and (years later) in outdoor sculpture in Manhattan. The Afterword explains how I was introduced to Ayn Rand's esthetics and why I became intent on developing a systematic method for studying art. It concludes with three answers to the crucial question: "Yes, but why would anyone else want to do that?" While writing the manuscript I wrestled with the question of whether to include that question and its three answers in the Introduction, as motivation. I feared that in the Introduction, giving a lengthy explanation based on Ayn Rand's esthetics and epistemology might lead potential readers to assume OMOM was yet another interminable, incomprehensible work of art criticism. By the time readers reach the Afterword, the answers to "Why analyze art?" merely summarize points I've already made. For motivation in the Introduction, I instead tried to describe my own introduction to art and to New York sculpture with such enthusiasm that it would draw readers in. Appendix A, "How to Read a Sculpture," has four sections:

  1. A list of questions to ask when looking at a sculpture, cross-referenced to the OMOM essays in which the topics are discussed
  2. A play-by-play description of the process by which I worked out the theme of Joan of Arc (Essay 44)
  3. Evaluation of the Cid (Essay 54) in esthetic, philosophical, emotional and art-historical terms
  4. Questions for readers to ask themselves about Butterfield (Essay 52), first to determine the theme and then to evaluate the sculpture

Appendix B is a list of OMOM sculptures by date of dedication. Appendix C is an alphabetical list of artists whose works are represented in OMOM. For each, it gives dates, place of birth, major works in the U.S., and all works by the artist that stand outdoors in the five boroughs of New York.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

El Cid Campeador: OMOM Essay 54

I first heard of the Cid while studying in Spain, where he's a national hero on a par with George Washington in the United States. Thus it was a surprise to read the prestigious 1911 Britannica's disparaging estimate of him. I used this to raise the question of how one should properly evaluate a historical figure: by the standards of his own time, or of one's own?

"About the Sculpture" identifies the theme based on the details of the sculpture. In "Getting More Enjoyment from Art You Love" (The Objective Standard 1:2, Summer 2006) I discuss the Cid's theme at greater length and compare it to the equestrian George Washington at Union Square (Essay 13). The TOS article includes a photo of the Hispanic Society courtyard, where the Cid is the center of an ensemble.

In Appendix A, section 3 of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan, I show how to evaluate the Cid in esthetic, philosophical, emotional and art historical terms.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton Grange): OMOM Essay 53

In "About the Sculpture" I discuss how this portrait at Hamilton Grange differs from the three other Hamilton sculptures in Manhattan. For images of all four, see the introduction to the transcript of my walking tour of Hamilton sculptures.

"About the Subject" in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan recounts Hamilton's organization of the country's finances as first secretary of the Treasury, 1790-1795. I couldn't resist also mentioning one of Hamilton's most appealing characteristics: he was an immigrant who fell in love with New York, never wanted to live elsewhere, and became one of the city's most energetic promoters. I never cease to be grateful that he and Jefferson agreed to send the feds south.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Daniel Butterfield: OMOM Essay 52

The Butterfield project so exasperated Gutzon Borglum (best known for Mount Rushmore) that he eventually snapped that he wouldn't care if the sculpture were heaved into the Hudson. Rather than analyzing this sculpture in detail, I wrote out a long series of questions re identifying the theme and evaluating the sculpture, to help readers practice thinking about sculpture on their own. This appears in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan as "How to Read a Sculpture," Appendix A, section 4.

"About the Subject" gives a brief biography of General Butterfield (d. 1901), including his actions on Wall Street's first Black Friday. (See the Bennett Memorial, Essay 21.)

Hrmph: another photo taken when the sun was far too strong, but it's the best close-up I have of Butterfield's face. Part of my mission for this blog is to upload images of important angles and details that didn't fit into OMOM, so no, I won't just use a better photo of a different detail.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Carl Schurz: OMOM Essay 51

In "About the Sculpture" I discuss the reliefs flanking Schurz's portrait statue, which recall more of Schurz's achievements than could have been conveyed by his portrait alone. The reliefs are executed in the archaizing style made popular by Paul Manship (Prometheus, Essay 28).

"About the Subject" in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan focuses on Schurz's participation in the American Anti-Imperialist League, which maintained that the United States should not annex the Phillippines after the Spanish-American War. Schurz's arguments are brilliantly expounded in a speech of 1899 that includes the famous line, "Our country - when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right." To read the whole speech, click here.

Make a point of visiting this sculpture on a clear day - the view is spectacular. Below: reliefs at left, center and right. As always, you can double-click to see a larger image.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thomas Jefferson: OMOM Essay 50

"About the Sculpture" discusses how the texture of Jefferson relates to the works of Rodin, who influenced many American sculptors in the early 20th c. For "About the Subject" I decided to focus on the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, since it could be linked to several other sculptures in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: Lafayette (Essay 14; see also the essay on Forgotten Delights), Lewis and Clark (Essay 42, part of the Theodore Roosevelt ensemble), and De Witt Clinton (Essay 48).

In the Forgotten Delights calendar I used a favorite Jefferson quote, which ends: "Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them. It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." Incidentally, all the quotes in the Forgotten Delights calendar are material that didn't fit in OMOM, except for one or two where the calendar cites in full something I only excerpted in OMOM.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Alma Mater: OMOM Essay 49

Searching for stories on Alma Mater in the New York Times, I came across a brief 1970 article noting that someone had thrown a bomb at her. That shocked me, and what shocked me even more was the fact that the bombing raised so little comment - apparently because at the time, there were too many other bombings and riots for it to be news-worthy. I place the Alma Mater bombing in that context in "About the Subject."

Alas, I didn't have space in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan to include excerpts from the New York Times Magazine symposium "Are We in the Middle of the 'Second American Revolution'?" (5/17/1970). It included an analysis by Ayn Rand that seemed to have been written in a different universe from the responses of the other participants. (See "From a Symposium" in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.) To appreciate Rand's clarity and incisiveness, read the other contributions to the symposium, which you can purchase for $4.95 from the Times.

"About the Sculpture" describes the symbolism of Alma Mater. The Forgotten Delights calendar for 2006-2007 has another good photo of this 1903 sculpture and a wonderful quote from Owen Young on the importance of integrating what one learns.

Incidentally, the bomb hit the left side of Alma Mater as you look at her, but the sculpture was repaired so well that no damage is visible.

Friday, February 9, 2007

De Witt Clinton: OMOM Essay 48

My father's repertoire for long car rides included:

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge 'cause we're coming to a town.
And you'll always know your neighbor
You'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

As a child I pictured that canal just like the narrow, silted-up canal that meandered along the Susquehanna River near my hometown. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Erie Canal, which De Witt Clinton tirelessly promoted, was one of the major technological achievements of the early 19th c., and was also the major reason New York outstripped Philadelphia and Boston as a commercial center.

I love learning new facts and ideas, but some of the most satisfying moments in my wide-ranging research for Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan came when a disconnected scrap of old knowledge (like the Erie Canal) slid smoothly into a niche in my newly expanded view of the world.

"About the Sculpture" compares this portrait of Clinton (d. 1828) to others at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (scroll down to the photo on the right) and on the Surrogate's Court at Chambers and Centre Streets in Manhattan (photo at left).

The close-up of Clinton's head at the beginning of this post is an object lesson on why one shouldn't bother taking a photo of a sculpture when bright sunlight is hitting it. A Photoshop expert might be able to fix those harsh contrasts. Me, I prefer trying to shoot in more suitable weather. See my essay "Completely Unprofessional Notes on Taking Photos of Outdoor Sculpture."
And here's a picture taken recently, when the sun wasn't shining on De Witt. Much better.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Dr. James Marion Sims: OMOM Essay 47

"About the Subject" describes how Sims almost single-handedly established the specialty of gynecology, at a time when women routinely suffered and died from mysterious "female complaints." Sims was also one of the first American physicians to treat cancer patients, who were considered untreatable and almost untouchable through most of the 19th c. More on that in Forgotten Delights: The Producers. (Sims is the tenth and final sculpture to appear in FDP as well as Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan.)

As I discuss in "About the Sculpture," this is the only case I can think of in OMOM where a new pedestal and a new setting are an improvement over the originals. I was hoping there would be space in the book for a photo of the pedestal as well as Sims; since there wasn't, I'm giving you one here that you can zoom in on to read the inscriptions.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Straus Memorial: OMOM Essay 46

"About the Sculpture" is an exercise in working out the identity of a sculpture when it's not immediately obvious. I also make the point that learning to look systematically at a sculpture allows you to spend far more time than you might have expected with art that appeals to you. For more on that, see my article "Getting More Enjoyment from Art You Love," The Objective Standard 1:2 (Summer 2006).

"About the Subject" in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan is on Isidor and Ida Straus. Rather than dwelling on their deaths on the Titanic in 1912, I focused on Straus as an early co-owner of Macy's department store.

For February 2007, the Forgotten Delights calendar has a close-up of the Straus Memorial along with Robbie Burns's charming poem "O My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose."

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Firemen's Memorial: OMOM Essay 45

In "About the Sculpture" I examine how the bronze relief and two groups of marble figures combine to make a vivid statement about the excitement and hazards of firefighting. Then I suggest that the reader imagine how extraordinarily inexpressive this memorial would be were it only a list of names. In my Battery Park podcast, I argue (with additional examples) that for any memorial, including the World Trade Center memorial, representational sculpture is more evocative than a list of names set in landscape architecture.

"About the Subject" surveys major fires in New York from 1776, when Nathan Hale (Essay 8 of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan) was arrested as a possible arsonist, until 1908, when the death of a 35-year-veteran of the New York Fire Department inspired the creation of this memorial.

For the Sidebar it amused me to use a few lines from my favorite song from The Scarlet Pimpernel in a very literal sense.

Below: the Vitruvian wave is usually a simple running spiral, but on the Firemen's Memorial, flame and smoke lick its edges.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Joan of Arc: OMOM Essay 44

"About the Sculpture" discusses why a basic knowledge of Western civilization is a requirement for looking at Western sculpture. An early draft also included quite a lengthy description of the process by which I identified the theme of Joan of Arc. For the sake of better flow in the main text, most of that description was eventually shifted to "How to Read a Sculpture" (Appendix A in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan) as a practical demonstration of how to work out a theme.

"About the Subject" sketches Joan's role in the battle between the French and English kings in 1428.

This is another difficult sculpture to photograph. From the hillside below one can barely see Joan's face, and her sword - a crucial element in the composition - tends to disappear against surrounding trees and buildings. After dozens of attempts at various times of day and year, I finally happened to take the photo that appears in the book, in which the light hits her sword and makes it stand out from the background.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Alexander Hamilton (Central Park): OMOM Essay 43

In “About the Sculpture” I consider why Manhattan has four sculptures of Hamilton (d. 1804) - more than of any other person, including George Washington - and how the fact that this one is of granite rather than the usual bronze or marble affects what the artist could do and how we perceive it.

“About the Subject” in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan compares Hamilton’s and Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas of “big government.” Times do change.

A couple years ago I gave a walking tour of the Hamilton sculptures, of which you can read the opening pages online. Click here for information on purchasing a copy of the whole essay in PDF format.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Theodore Roosevelt: OMOM Essay 42

I was surprised to learn that President Theodore Roosevelt (d. 1919), soldier, politician and hunter, was also very interested in art. He wrote a perceptive review of the Armory Show of 1913, at which America was introduced to “modern” European art such as Cubism. “About the Sculpture” focuses on his cooperation with Augustus Saint Gaudens (Essays 19 and 31 of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan), then America’s most prominent sculptor, on the design of the $20 gold piece. TR suspected the design of the new Double Eagle (see photos below) would get him impeached: "About the Subject" in tells why.

In “About the Sculpture” I pull back again to look at the big picture: the setting in which Roosevelt was meant to be seen, which included part of the east facade of the American Museum of Natural History and an enormous plaza (never constructed) that would have spread into Central Park.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Verdi Monument: OMOM Essay 41

After hours of cranking through microfilm copies of Il Progresso Italo-Americano, whose editor spearheaded the fundraising for the Verdi Monument, I had found no explanation for why Aida, Leonora, Othello and Falstaff were chosen over Verdi's other characters to be represented on the Verdi Monument. At that point John Haralabopoulos, opera buff and member of the Forgotten Delights update list, became fascinated by the question, and did far more research than I would have had the knowledge or patience to do. I greatly enjoyed his reports of his findings at Lincoln Center and elsewhere.

“About the Subject” in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan focuses how Verdi came to write “Va, pensiero" and why it became an Italian "national" anthem by the mid-19th c., decades before the peninsula was unified and independent.

Above: Aida. Below: Falstaff, Leonora, Otello.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Eleanor Roosevelt: OMOM Essay 40

The surprise in writing this essay was how intensely I came to dislike Eleanor Roosevelt. “About the Subject” originally focused an action that made my blood boil, which occurred during her tenure as assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense. The amorphous aims of the OCD (established by FDR in May 1941) included protection of the civilian population, maintenance of morale and promotion of volunteer involvement in defense. Director Fiorello LaGuardia (Essay 9), juggling his OCD and mayoral duties, focused on basics such as air raid procedures and black-out drills. Mrs. Roosevelt, however, allotted OCD funds for day-care and health services. Not long after Pearl Harbor she added long-time friend and professional dancer Mayris Chaney to the OCD payroll: rhythmic and folk dancing, she told the New York Times, had proved in England to have "a definite part" in war-time programs. Even after a furor that led to her resignation, Mrs. Roosevelt reiterated her belief that "better nutrition, better housing, better day-by-day medical care, better education, better recreation for every age" were essential to national defense. A couple months after I'd submitted the manuscript of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan - when I was already deeply involved in another project - my editor at New York University Press pointed out that the tone of this "About the Subject" was far more polemical than anything else in the book, and just didn't fit in a guidebook with excursions into art theory. Once he pointed it out I had to admit he was right about the tone, but since I couldn’t find any anecdotes on Mrs. Roosevelt that made me like her, I settled for compiling a biographical sketch. I consider it one of the most insipid sections of OMOM. “About the Sculpture,” on the other hand, was interesting to write because it tackles the issue of evaluating a sculpture philosophically, as opposed to philosophically evaluating the person represented. Eleanor Roosevelt is the most recent sculpture to appear in OMOM, having been dedicated in 1996. Other representational sculptures have been dedicated in New York since then that don’t appear in the book, for example the under-lifesize portrait of Benito Juarez in Bryant Park. The blog gets no photo of this sculpture, because I forgot to ask the sculptor for permission to use images on the web as well as in the book.