Eakins and O’Donovan at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY

Sculpture Forum 9: Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY, May 1, 2020 Sculptor Brandt Junceau talks about the arch, based on his memory of it and new video footage of the memorial. (Video by Maud Bryt)

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Here are some excerpts from Brandt’s commentary:

William O’Donovan got the job of the two reliefs and he chose Thomas Eakins from Philadelphia to supply the horses.

In the reliefs, thankfully, the subject is enough.

It’s somewhat almost inartistic.

There’s nothing showy, flashy, strutting in either of the horses or either of the men.

One thought on “Eakins and O’Donovan at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY

  1. Very nice/beautiful piece: fresh, essentially right about everything.

    But Eakins’s involvement reminds me of the lectures the painter Leland Bell used to give at the Studio School. Leland didn’t like Eakins. He didn’t like Winslow Homer either. I’m sure other people remember Leland’s arguments better than I do. Leland was a committed modernist: committed to plastic values. I remember Bruce Gagnier’s lunchtime art history lectures too. He’d half-seriously tell us that he’d never visited the American wing at the Met: he had no time for American art (except de Kooning’s and Gorky’s—and they weren’t really Americans).

    Those reliefs are not 20th century art. They don’t have much to do with “the way forward.” But things have suddenly slowed down. Maybe we’re a little more conscious of civic life now.

    The success of the reliefs seems to owe a lot to the personal/private commitment of Eakins and O’Donovan—a commitment not to their personal glory as artists, but to something spiritual, something “poetic.” Garth, am I being too literary?

    There’s some vitality lingering in MacMonnies’s work—in the “art”/the forms—but it’s not connected to the subject. Same thing was going on in Kehinde Wiley’s “Rumors of War” in Times Square last fall: exciting art, an exciting/excited artist—but a disconnect between the art and the subject.

    And what about Jean-Marie Appriou’s horses at the southeast corner of Central Park? There’s no “space”—“artistic” space—for viewers in Appriou’s sculpture: no place a viewer can take in the sculpture: the sculpture completely takes over the viewer’s space. The O’Donovan/Eakins reliefs kind of jump out of “relief space”—in a way that Saint-Gaudens’s “Shaw Memorial” certainly doesn’t. A dance critic friend just told me she thought the Brooklyn reliefs are very “artistic”—“artistic” as theater, not sculpture, maybe???

    Liked by 1 person

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