Thomas Crawford

(22 March 1813 (1814?) - 10 October 1857)

Born in New York, he manifested a taste for art at an early age, and went to Italy in 1834, settling in Rome. He enjoyed the friendship and instruction of Thorwaldsen. In 1839 he designed his "Orpheus," which is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Among his works are, "Adam and Eve after the Expulsion" and a bust of Josiah Quincy, both in the Boston Athenasum; statue of Beethoven, in the Boston Music Hall; "Children of the Wood," belonging to Hamilton Fish; "Dancing Jenny," "Genius of Mirth," "Indian Woman," "Pandora," "Cupid," "Peri," "Daughter of Herodias," "Hebe and Ganymede," presented to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts by C. C. Perkins, "Mercury and Psyche," "Truant Boys." His "Flora" is in the Central Park, New York, where are also eighty-seven plaster casts of his works, presented to the Museum there by his widow. The most elaborate of his monumental works are in Richmond, Va., and Washington, D. C. His statue of Washington was cast in bronze in Munich. He executed, also, many bas-reliefs of scriptural and allegorical subjects. Unquestionably the best known of his creations is the "Statue of Freedom," surmounting the dome of the Capitol at Washington. "No American subject has been treated in marble with such profound local significance as the "Indian Chief," a statue by Crawford, now most appropriately occupying the Entrance Hall of the New York Historical Society; and no more judicious compliment to the artist's fame can be imagined than the English sculptor Gibson's proposal at the meeting of artists at Rome, called to pay a last tribute to Crawford's memory, that this statue should be cast in bronze and set up as a permanent memorial of his national fame in one of the squares of the Eternal City. The attitude, air, and expression, the grand proportions, the aboriginal type of form and feature, the bowed head, the clenched hand, the stoical despair of this majestic figure, adequately and eloquently symbolize the destruction of a race, and mark the advent of civilization on this continent." -- Tuckerman's Book of the Artists.



"Crawford was an artist gifted with a prolific invention; indeed, his invention too often ran away with his judgment as a careful workman, that is, it induced him to undertake more than it was possible for him to execute in his best manner; and his artistic education was much more complete than that of any previous American sculptor had been. He, however, attempted too much, and did too much, for the work to be thoroughly well done." -- William J. Clarke, Jr., Great American Sculptors.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century, their Works & Biographical Sketches, Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879. div

Unquestionably the best known of his creations is the "Statue of Freedom," commissioned in 1855, surmounting the U.S. Capitol dome at Washington. The bronze statue stands 19 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds. Her crest rises 288 feet above the east front plaza. Crawford executed the plaster model for the statue in his studio in Rome. Tragically, Crawford did not live to see its completion, nor the installation of all his U.S. Capitol work. At the height of his productivity (he had created more than 60 statues), Crawford died of a brain tumor before the model left his studio. Foundry owner Clark Mills, where the bronze version was to be cast, assigned the task of solving the puzzle to Reid, one of his most skilled workmen -- and one of Mills' slaves. Attaching a rope to Freedom's head, Reid used a block and tackle to tug gently upward until hairline cracks in the plaster began to reveal the statue's separate pieces. Reid also worked on the casting of the bronze. By the time Freedom was raised atop the Capitol dome in December 1862, Reid was a free man.

The person Beethoven was about 5 feet, 4 inches tall. This metal one is 7 and a half feet, and stands on a 3-and-a-half-foot-high marble base, in the Boston Music Hall, Jordan Hall lobby. The Boston Beethoven was on the stage of Boston Music Hall until the end of the 19th Century.


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