General Henry Warner Slocum, on the east side of Grand Army Plaza, is by Frederick MacMonnies, who also created the nearby Stranahan and most of the sculptures for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch. (See last week’s post.) If you know General Slocum’s name, it’s probably because of the steamboat named after him that caught on fire in the East River in 1904. Most of the 1,300 souls who perished were women and children on their way to a church picnic. The charming Slocum Memorial in Tompkins Square Park commemorates them. Details on the disaster here. On this sculpture of Slocum, dedicated in 1905, see here.
The Bailey Fountain is named after Brooklyn financier and philanthropist Frank Bailey and his wife Mary, who donated $125,000 for the construction of a new fountain on Grand Army Plaza. It was dedicated in 1932. According to the NYC Parks Department site, the man and woman at the center represent Wisdom and Felicity. By what attributes do we know that? I have no idea. Ten demerits to the sculptor.
Around the base are Neptune, god of the sea (south side, with a trident), Triton, his attendant (west side), and a boy blowing a conch shell (east side). What do Neptune & Co. have to do with Wisdom and Felicity? Ten more.
I will take almost any representational art over almost any non-representational art, and most stylized art over art that’s grittily realistic … but the Bailey Fountain smacks of one of my all-time least-favorite styles. Socialist Realism, spawned in Communist Russia in the 1920s, emphasizes brawn over brains. The Bailey Fountain is in the same style and dates to the same period as Lee Lawrie’s Atlas at Rockefeller Center, 1937. And you know which Atlas I prefer, right? If not, see Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan and this supplementary page to the Monuments of Manhattan app.
The mythological figures around the base are amusing, and rather more lively than the two central figures.
John F. Kennedy
This bust of JFK was dedicated in 1965, two years after his assassination. Looking south from it, you can see the Bailey Fountain and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch. More on JFK here.
Alexander J.C. Skene
If you’re a gynecologist or urologist, you’ll have heard of Skene. If not, all you need to know is that he was prominent gynecologist at a time when the specialty was still fairly new. This bust is by John Massey Rhind, who also created the full-length portrait of Alexander Stewart Webb (of which I’m rather fond) at City College. The Skene bust was dedicated in 1905. More on it here.
General Gouverneur Kemble Warren
He looks like quite a charming man … but not a general. This sculpture by Henry Baerer was dedicated in 1896. Baerer also sculpted the Beethoven in Prospect Park (see this post) and another Beethoven in Central Park. More on Warren here.
The Panthers, by Alexander Phimister Proctor, were dedicated at the Third Street entrance to Prospect Park in 1898. Proctor helped Augustus Saint Gaudens model the horse for the Sherman at the southeast corner of Central Park.
The Italianate Litchfield Villa was built in 1855 for railroad pioneer Edwin Litchfield, to a design by Alexander Jackson Davis. The villa and its grounds were acquired by the City of Brooklyn in 1869, after they decided to expand Prospect Park to the south and west. More on Litchfield Villa from NYC Parks Department here. For more of Davis’s work, visit Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York (Gothic Revival) and the facade of Federal Hall (Greek Revival), which he designed with Ithiel Town.
- My most-consulted book on Frederick MacMonnies is Mary Smart, A Flight with Fame, 1996. It includes hundreds of images, including archival photos of plaster casts, letters, etc.
- The first post in this series is here, second here, third here. All photos in this series are copyright © 2017 Dianne L. Durante.
- Want wonderful art delivered weekly to your inbox? Members of my free Sunday Recommendations list (email DuranteDianne@gmail.com) receive three art-related suggestions every week: check out my favorites from last year’s recommendations. For more goodies, check out my Patreon page.