Beyond Grief: Sculpture and Wonder in the Gilded Age Cemetery
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Beyond Grief explores high-style funerary sculptures and their functions during the turn of the twentieth century. Many scholars have overlooked these monuments, viewing them as mere oddities, a part of an individual artist's oeuvre, a detail of a patron's biography, or local civic cemetery history. This volume considers them in terms of their wider context and shifting use as objects of consolation, power, and multisensory mystery and wonder.
Art historian Cynthia Mills traces the stories of four families who memorialized their losses through sculpture. Henry Brooks Adams commissioned perhaps the most famous American cemetery monument of all, the Adams Memorial in Washington, D.C. The bronze figure was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who became the nation’s foremost sculptor. Another innovative bronze monument featured the Milmore brothers, who had worked together as sculptors in the Boston area. Artist Frank Duveneck composed a recumbent portrait of his wife following her early death in Paris; in Rome, the aging William Wetmore Story made an angel of grief his last work as a symbol of his sheer desolation after his wife’s death.
Through these incredible monuments Mills explores questions like: Why did new forms--many of them now produced in bronze rather than stone and placed in architectural settings--arise just at this time, and how did they mesh or clash with the sensibilities of their era? Why was there a gap between the intention of these elite patrons and artists, whose lives were often intertwined in a closed circle, and the way some public audiences received them through the filter of the mass media? Beyond Grief traces the monuments' creation, influence, and reception in the hope that they will help us to understand the larger story: how survivors used cemetery memorials as a vehicle to mourn and remember, and how their meaning changed over time.
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cult of mourning that distinguished nineteenth-century views of death had occurred in the rural cemetery movement of the 1830s.” Now the new national military cemeteries, such as Arlington near Washington, D.C., that were created during and after the Civil War reinforced the same retreat from romantic sentimentality that was seen in mourning mores, funeral rites, and literature. In their orderly grandeur, the military graveyards also added to an impetus for a new order and simplification of the
later on. The youth’s body is taking form as vital and healthy, and he now stands taller on his straight right leg than in the maquette, more nearly the same height as the majestic angel. The sculptor’s arm is drawn back, mallet in hand, ready to strike his poised chisel; he is immersed in his work, concentrating his mind as well as his physical being on the task. While his head remains in profile, his body is turned more fully away from the viewer in contrast to the angel’s frontal form. The two
the Cincinnati Times Star titled “An Artist’s Grief: How It Finds Expression in Cold Bronze,” a reporter described meeting Duveneck at the studio where the artist was preparing his final model for the foundry. Duveneck began by providing practical rather than emotional explanations for his decision to have the full-length reclining figure cast in bronze, despite the tradition for gisants made of stone. “Of course, I would prefer marble but I wanted something lasting as well as appropriate,” he
Stewart Gardner, and others of Adams’s set, the pair participated in an elite interest at century’s end in Asia and Buddhism. Their trip was partly a curious quest for exoticism and adventure and partly a serious search for new means and rituals to restore life’s wholeness in a changing world. With Bigelow acting as their “master of ceremonies,” Adams and La Farge visited temples, shrines, and markets, “read Buddhism” and Taoism, and viewed Mount Fuji and the Giant Buddha of Kamakura (which Adams