Page images
[ocr errors][graphic]


The United States shows its youthfulness in the lack of art works in the cities and towns, and is likely in the coming decade to reveal the advancing years of its civilization by a great development in communal art and architecture. Much of this is certain to be carried out in a record of wild animal life. No nation more than the American people has shown fine sentiment toward the preservation of wild birds and animals, but with all this the big game is rapidly becoming extinct. Zoological statuary of the highest order will not only set up before us the greatest beauty and power, outside of man, that the earth has evolved, but also will preserve in imperishable stone and metal great races which are vanishing from the ranks of life. The giant Bengal tigers by the sculptor, A. Phimister Proctor, which mark the termination of the Sixteenth Street Bridge, crossing Piney Branch, Washington, are examples of the best animal sculpture to be found in our national capital. Washington was laid out on a predetermined plan and therefore possesses generous opportunities for the use of municipal statuary. Such statues as have been erected, however, are largely war memorials, with few zoological subjects, although a number of lions and more or less conventionalized eagles embellish or disfigure certain public monuments. We value highly as subjects for our statues the Old World species-tigers, lions, elephants-for are not these the forms we know from our ancestry, from our literature and traditions? But notwithstanding this cosmopolitan interest, as Americans we should like to see immortalized our native American fauna, in connection with which the pioneer history of the United States has developed

Zoological Statuary at the National Capital


Fellow American Ornithologists' Union, honorary member Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, member Zoological Society of London, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and many other scientific societies of Europe and America


'N all modern cities of the civilized nations of the world we find in parks, public places, and buildings, statues which, in the main, are devoted to distinguished personages of one nation or another, to allegorical subjects, and to general designs, usually exemplifying the stage of development attained in that branch of the fine arts at the time of their erection; or else the statues are the materialization of the conceptions of some of the noted sculptors of the period. Often these statues are of great merit, lending a peculiar dignity to the city and to a degree tending to exert, through their presence, an elevating and refining influence upon the minds of the members of the community.

I have turned my attention recently to a special department of this particular activity, with the view of making a study of the merits of such statues in Washington as are purely of a zoological type in design, and of those in which animals have been employed in allegorical pieces or groups. 1

It is surprising how very few animal statues we find in the city of Washington. It is the more to be wondered at because no other city in the world today lends itself better to the exhibition of this branch of art. Washington's streets and avenues are, in the main, generously laid out, with great width between the broad sidewalks; they are abundantly lit at night by electricity and are ever tidy in appearance; their numerous intersections at common points are often the chosen sites for "circles" or parks of various dimensions. These are admirable locations for statues, pieces, or groups, and are usually available for such purposes. Many of them have already been utilized in this manner, and we find, in not a few instances, bronze statues of heroes of our Civil War, commanders of the Federal troops in that

In pursuing this study I have been assisted in the matter of obtaining data by Col. William W. Harts, Corps of Engineers, United States Army, in charge of public buildings and grounds at the national capital, and by Daniel J. Donovan, secretary to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, to both of whom it affords me pleasure to extend my thanks.

conflict. With these the present article has nothing to do; nor is it my purpose to take into consideration those groups in which horses form a part. Although they are, in a way, zoological, they are not of the ferine class which I have in mind for treatment.

Taking animals in natural sequence, it may be pointed out that fish and reptiles but rarely enter into sculpture of the class under consideration; still, some nondescript animals of the latter group are to be seen in the great fountain in the Botanical Gardens, and a more elaborate representation of a similar form is found in the famous Hinton Perry fountain of the Congressional Library, where we see on the primal base at the foot of Neptune, certain frogs, hawksbill turtles, and an eel-like creature which seems to have been modeled after the famous Japanese shark, Chlamydoselachus anguineus -the oldest existing type of vertebrate, named and described by the late Samuel Garman. The fore-flippers of the turtles (Caretta imbricata) are too long and too narrow for adult examples, and it would appear that the distinguished sculptor of this group selected rather young specimens for his models. As we know, the limbsespecially the forepair-are proportionately much narrower and longer in the subadult animal than in the matured specimen.

Among birds, the eagle is the only species that has been selected for representation, so far as I have observed; and that this has been used is doubtless due to the fact that the eagle happens to be the emblem of the United States of America. In no instance known to me is the eagle represented naturally in any piece of sculpture, or in any metal reproduction, in the city of Washington, that is, so far as groups in public places are concerned. Scores of these birds are to be found, either as single pieces or in groups; but they are all more or less idealized, and performing some feat that makes them appear ridiculous, from whatever viewpoint we may select. The arrangement and number of the feathers in the wings and tail

Illustrations from photographs by the Author


One of the four concrete lions, modeled by a New York sculptor in 1909, for the Connecticut Avenue Bridge, Washington. This figure is on the southwest end of the bridge and measures nine feet in height and twelve feet long. Here was an opportunity to model the great "King of Beasts" so that the majesty of his creation would ap peal to all observers through generations to come. Instead we have what appear to be "sick lions unwillingly pulled from some passing menagerie, to pose just as death was overtaking them"


One of a pair of lions on the Columbus Memorial, Washington, modeled by a Chicago sculptor. stance where the sculptured marble brings little pride to American art of the twentieth century

This also is an in

[ocr errors]



for our making life prisoners of these

are invariably incorrect; other parts are not
in due proportion, much less natural. The
eagles at the base of the McClellan statue,
opposite "The Highlands," are supporting a
heavy wreath in the most unnatural way
imaginable, and the sight is sufficient to
send chills down the spine of any well-in-
formed ornithologist. There could not have
been a more fitting opportunity to have
placed at every angle of the base of this
handsome production a fine, adult eagle, in
bronze or other suitable metal, of natural
size, normal proportions, and perfect in all
other respects. There are plenty of live
birds in the big, out-door eagle cage at the
National Zoological Park, not fifteen min-
utes' walk from this McClellan statue, that
the sculptor might have selected as models
for this work. Indeed, in my opinion, this
is one of the purposes for which we keep
wild animals confined in zoological gardens;
at least, it is just as important a pur-
pose as any other to serve as an

Speaking of the National Zoological Park,
here is certainly an opportunity of the first
order to introduce some work of the class
I am considering. Especially is this true of
mammalian sculpture, which at present is
All of the entrances
not represented there.
to this great reservation for the public ex-
hibition of captive animals from all parts
of the world, are singularly unattractive and
primitive in character, and to no little de-
gree a disgrace to such a country as ours;
this applies particularly to the main en-
trance on the Connecticut Avenue side.
Apart from a few simple signboards placed
there, nothing indicates to the visitor that
he is about to enter the confines of the
National Zoological Park of the United
States of America. For example, we find
nothing to correspond to the fine lion group
at the Girard Avenue entrance to the Zoo-
logical Gardens of Philadelphia, or to simi-


[ocr errors]

Lion statue on one of the marble pedestals of the unfinished Grant Memorial in the Botanical Gardens, Washington.-Our native big game fauna is large-antelope, elk, moose, buffalo, musk ox, mounAny of these would appear with tain goat and sheep, several species of deer, and all the bears. strength and beauty and dignity in our municipal or national statuary; and so fast are they becoming exterminated it will be as if only tomorrow-in the story of the earth's history-that all have disappeared

lar groups in other parts of the world. Surely it is time that a suitable sum be appropriated for this purpose. Let us trust that, when it does come about, when the proposed enterprise can be properly financed, animal statues worthy of the name will be selected by the authorities having this important matter in charge.

Personally, I am distinctly opposed to the choosing of non-indigenous animals for projects of this kind. In Washington, foreign animals have been employed altogether too often as subjects for statues of this class. There are lions here, lions there, lions everywhere, and several of them very impossible lions at that. We have an unusual number of large mammals in this country, all of which are upon the highroad to extinction; among these I may mention the antelope, the elk, the buffalo, the musk ox, the mountain goat and sheep, several species of deer, and all of the bears. Comparatively speaking, the time is not far off when the greater number of these animals will be exterminated; we shall know them only through preserved skins, mounted museum specimens, and pictures of various kinds-all of which are more or less perishable in their nature.

What would form at this time a desirable addition to the National Zoological Park would be two life-size statues of famous American mammals in bronze, placed upon suitable pedestals at the main entrance on Connecticut Avenue. Perhaps none better could be selected for this particular purpose than an adult, antlered, bull elk, in a characteristic pose, upon the one hand, and, on the other, an old, male moose, modeled after as fine a specimen as the northern wilds can furnish. The work should be placed in the hands of a sculptor familiar with the superficial or topographical anatomy of these animals, as well as with their characteristic poses in nature. In time, similar statues could be placed at the remaining entrances to this Park, in keeping with their importance and in harmony with their surroundings. Finally, at suitable points within the Park, another piece or two-perhaps threecould be placed to good advantage. One of these might be an extinct animal form, for example, the ponderous Stegosaurus stenops, the ancient herbivore so successfully modeled recent by Mr. Charles W. Gilmore, of the United States National Museum.

Personally, I am much averse to sculp

tural license in the modeling of the animal pieces that are to occupy various salient points throughout the city. There is no excuse for such unscientific and often ghastly work. It is a miserable, misdirected expenditure of funds, and publicly perpetuates a bunch of errors in comparative anatomy and practical zoology that can have only, an undesirable effect upon the mind of the populace, old and young, as it passes down the ages to come. Take for example the four concrete lions that occupy the terminating pedestals of the Connecticut Avenue bridge, one upon either hand at the entrances.

Here was an unusual opportunity to place a couple of pieces that would have been not only a credit to the nation but also a source of inspiration and education to the people for generations to come. But what have we? The sculptures present the appearance of sick lions, unwillingly pulled from some passing menagerie, to pose just as death was overtaking them. No lion living ever possessed such a form as has been given to any one of these by the sculptor. Their musculature is absolutely incorrect in every particular, and idealism has been carried to the point of the ridiculous; they appear like starved, dead lions, with impossible muscles, manes, and morphology, bolstered up in cadaveric poses.

Even more impossible leonine pieces are those on the Columbus Memorial, in front of the Union Station. These lions are hideous in their facial expressions, terrible in their unnatural proportions, and passing strange in their superficial anatomy. Muscles are shown that have no existence in nature and are absurd from any point from which we may study or view them. They are pitiable examples of the cheap, American sculptural work of the twentieth century, and they will, in the years to come, furnish food for laughter and ridicule for students of correct lines in animal contours and normal poses of the big carnivores of the present time. No lion ever looked the least bit like the two that confront one on this celebrated Columbus Memorial in Washington.

Better lions are those upon the marble pedestals which form a part of the Grant Memorial in the Botanical Gardens, opposite the Capitol. This elaborate and long unfinished piece of work was intended to commemorate the deeds of a great American military hero; but it stands now as

« PreviousContinue »