Friday, August 24, 2012

The World's Largest Outdoor Art Gallery

Large collections of fine art, in the form of sculpture, are usually associated with museums located in sprawling urban areas.  I believe it is safe to say that the largest outdoor collection of this fine art is located in Adams County.

Bust of Lincoln in the National Cemetery.

Over thirteen hundred pieces of art are exhibited on about twenty-five square miles of a combined landscape of urban and country backdrops.  These works include carved pieces of stone and cast bronze panels and statues. These masterpieces commemorate and honor valiant deeds performed and sacrifices offered.  They remind the present and future generations of these heroic and sometimes tragic accomplishments.  This open-air museum is the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The battlefield began to be monumentalized in 1867 when former members of the First Minnesota Infantry placed a memorial urn in the National Cemetery.  

The majority of the monuments were placed on the field in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Most monuments represent regiments, brigades, army corps, military commanders, politicians or states which provided troops that participated in the conflict.

General Winfield Scott Hancock
equestrian statue on East Cemetery Hill

Depending on the date of placement on the field, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, the United States War Department or the National Park Service may have  dictated the rules for wording, composition of materials and placement of the memorials.  Funding for the monuments varied and may have included a governmental entity, a veterans organization, fraternal organization or a religious society.

The North Carolina monument by Gutzon Borglum on
South Confederate  Avenue.

Many of the regimental monuments are loaded with historical information concerning their participation in the battle.  Information etched on the stone or cast in the metal may include particular movements, exploits of the men, where the regiment was recruited from and a record of their war service.  Some may also display a cast bronze panel that depicts a significant event during the battle.  These panels themselves are works of fine art.

Lady Liberty atop the New York State
 monument in the  National  Cemetery.

Some of the foremost sculptors of that era who have their works displayed on the field include Donald DeLue, Henry Kirke Bush-Brown, John Quincy Adams Ward, J. Massey Rhind, Lee Lawrie, Cyrus Dallin  and Gutzon Borglum.  

The most prolific of these artists at Gettysburg was  Henry Kirke Bush-Brown.  He produced three titanic sized equestrian statues of Generals John Reynolds, George Meade and John Sedgwick.  He also sculpted a lifelike bust of President Abraham Lincoln at the memorial to the Gettysburg Address located near the west entrance of the National Cemetery.  

Equestrian statue of General John Fulton Reynolds.

Cyrus Dallin not only sculpted the General Winfield Scott Hancock statue at the Pennsylvania Memorial but also the impressive “The Picket” equestrian statue.  It is located in nearby Hanover and commemorates the cavalry action of the Battle of Hanover which occurred on June 30, 1863.

Monument to the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry.

One of the sculptors whose works appears on the field in three places is Charles W. Reed, an artist from Boston and veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg.  He was a bugler in the Ninth Massachusetts Battery.  Reed along with his former battery commander John Bigelow, designed all three memorials to the Ninth.

The list of all the talented artists whose works adorn the field is too long to mention in this short tome.  It would take weeks for you to visit and examine each monument or statue.  If you haven't viewed these works I would advise you to do so, after all, this monumental collection is located in your own backyard.

No comments:

Post a Comment