Horatio Greenough

(September 6, 1805 - December 18, 1852)



The son of David and Elizabeth Bender, he was born in Boston on September 6, 1805, into a home with ethics for honesty and emphasis on good education. Horatio sparked an interest in artistic and mechanical hobbies, showing his native skills and talents at a young age. Particularly attracted to chalk, around the age of 12 he made a chalk statue of William Penn, known as his earliest work of record. Horatio also experimented with clay, which medium he learned from Solomon Willard. He also learned how to carve with marble under instruction from Alpheus Cary. Horatio seemed to have a natural talent for art, yet his father wasn’t fond of the idea of this as a career for Horatio.

In 1814, Horatio Greenough enrolled at Phillips Academy, Andover, and in 1821 he entered Harvard University. There he found a passion in works of antiquity and devoted much of his time to reading literature and works of art. With a plan to study abroad, he learned Italian and French, but also still studied anatomy and kept modeling sculptures. While attending Harvard he came across his first crucial influence. Washington Allston was more than a mentor, but a close friend who enlightened and inspired Horatio. He even molded a bust of Washington. Before graduating from Harvard, he sailed to Rome to study art where he met the painter Robert W. Weir, while living on Via Gregoriana. In 1828, he established a studio in Florence.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1843. His sketchbook is held in the Archives of American Art. In 1828, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician.


These two became close friends and studied together the Renaissance and works of antiquity. Favorites of theirs were the Laocoon group of the Vatican structure galleries and the Apollo Belvedere. During Horatio’s time spent in Rome, he created many busts, as well as a full-size statue of the 'Dead Abel,' and a portrait of himself. He returned to Boston in May 1827, with Weir, after recovering an attack of malaria. He then modeled more busts such as 'Josiah Quincy,' president of Harvard, 'Samuel Appleton' and 'John Jacob Astor.' Horatio’s recognition was still not seen, so in attempt to establish a successful reputation sought out to make a portrait of President 'John Quincy Adams.' His plan worked as he really displayed a style of naturalism in this piece as he did in many other works.

His sculptures reflected truth and reality, but also ancient classical aesthetic ideals from which he learned from Washington Allston. Many of Horatio’s captured works were done in Florence, Italy where he spent most of his professional life. His sculpture' 'The Rescue' (1837–1850) and his over life-size 'George Washington' (1840) both derived from United States government commissions. Some of his other most famous and important sculptures include: 'James Fenimore Cooper,' 1831, 'Castor and Pollux,' 1847, 'Marquis de Lafayette,' 1831–32. Along with sculpture masterpieces he created, there are numerous drawings he also created which are displayed at the Middlebury College Museum of Art's exhibition.

His works are in the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Greenough’s probably most enduring achievements are his essays on art. Here Greenough repeatedly criticized contemporary American architecture for its imitation of European historical building styles, wrote enthusiastically about the beauty of animal bodies, of machine constructions, and of ship design, and argued that as to architecture, formal solutions were inherent in the functions of the building; in this he anticipated the later functionalist thinking. The origin of the phrase form follows function is often, but wrongly, ascribed to Greenough, although the theory of inherent forms, of which the phrase is a fitting summary, informs all of Greenough's writing on art, design, and architecture. The phrase itself was coined by the architect Louis Sullivan, Greenough's much younger compatriot, in 1896, some fifty years after Greenough's death. Greenough, just as Sullivan himself, was influenced by the transcendentalist thinking and the unitarian religion of Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, e.g. in his essay on "Nature" (1836), that "Nature who made the mason, made the house." Greenough's writings were for a long time largely forgotten, and were rediscovered only in the 1930s; in 1947, a selection of his essays was published under the title Form and Function: Remarks on Art by Horatio Greenough.

Greenough worked hard to gain the recognition, yet still little is focused upon him. As one of America's first sculptors to gain international fame, he is historically important.

[A memorial of Horatio Greenough, consisting of a memoir, selections from his writings, and tributes to his genius, Henry T. (Henry Theodore) Tuckerman, 1853.]
[Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.), Hugh Chisholm, ed., 1911; Wikipedia.]


A brain fever terminated, after a few days' illness, the life of Greenough. It may be regarded as a fortunate circumstance, that the attack occurred at his house in Newport, and while he was surrounded by those most near and dear to him. He was subsequently removed to the vicinity of Boston for the benefit of medical treatment. While the life-struggle was going on, we can imagine the agony of suspense that brooded over his household at Newport, where severe illness kept his dearest companion. The fatal issue was anticipated by the Italian servants -- two Tuscan women who had accompanied the family on their return. With that passionate grief characteristic of the race, they burst forth one wintry afternoon with the declaration, "that the Padrone would surely die, because a large owl had descended the chimney and was found in the parlor;" the incident awakened their latent superstition, and the bird of ill-omen was deemed the certain precursor of death. A few hours afterwards came the sad tidings, but they were mitigated, as far as such desolation can be, by the fact that his sufferings were inconsiderable, and the delusions incident to his malady, of a gay rather than a despairing nature. His strength gradually yielded to the cerebral excitement, and (after two weeks of this high fever) he expired on Saturday morning, the 18th of December, 1852.

Excerpt from: A Memorial of Horatio Greenough, consisting of a memoir, selections from his writings, and tributes to his genius, by H. T. Tuckerman. New York, 1853



Sculptor. Born in Boston, Greenough showed his interest in art at a young age and was informally trained by acquaintances. After graduating from Phillips Academy, he went to Harvard, where he was mentored by painter Washington Allston before graduating in 1821. Greenough was especially interested in antiquity and traveled to Rome, Florence, and other parts of Europe. His works include busts or statues of James Fenimore Cooper, the Marquis de Lafayette, and John Quincy Adams. Today, he is generally considered the first American sculptor to achieve international fame. He earned two substantial government commissions, including "The Rescue" (1837-1851), which adorned the Capitol building in Washington until 1958, and a larger-than-life sculpture of George Washington (1832-1841), depicting the first President seated and wearing a toga, now at the Smithsonian. Today, his sculptures are found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Smithsonian, among others.
Birth: Sep. 6, 1805
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death: December 18, 1852
Somerville, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA. © Coyright Ownership: findagrave.com



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