Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt

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Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt
Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt.jpg
Artist James Earle Fraser
Year 1939
Type Bronze
Dimensions 300 cm × 218 cm × 450 cm (10 ft × 7 ft 2 in × 14 ft 9 in)
Location Manhattan, United States
Coordinates 40°46′51.01″N 73°58′22.21″W / 40.7808361°N 73.9728361°W / 40.7808361; -73.9728361Coordinates: 40°46′51.01″N 73°58′22.21″W / 40.7808361°N 73.9728361°W / 40.7808361; -73.9728361

Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt is a bronze sculpture by James Earle Fraser.[1] It is located at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. The equestrian statue depicts Theodore Roosevelt on horseback. Standing to either side of him are an American Indian and an African.

History

Seen from the front

It was dedicated on October 27, 1940. Cast by Gorham Manufacturing Company, Providence, RI.

The inscription reads:
(On rear of sculpture:)
J E FRASER SC 1939
(On front of base:)
THEODORE ROOSEVELT
1858-1919
(On left side of base:)
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
1899 1901
(On right side of base:)
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
1901 1909 signed

Commission

The sculpture was commissioned by the Roosevelt Memorial Association in the 1930s after Fraser had delivered his design for the Arts of Peace memorial in Washington D.C., which at the time was also in competition with this memorial as the chosen location. For Arts of Peace, Fraser made a pair of statues of Pegasus depicting the themes Music and Harvest, and Aspiration and Literature. This equestrian monument should therefore be seen in that context, with Roosevelt mounted on Pegasus, though in fact he is in the garb of a hunter accompanied by two pedestrian guides representing America and Africa.[2]

Oddly that earlier design was executed more than a decade after this one was built in 1940, partly because of the failure of efforts to have a Roosevelt memorial placed in D.C. A compromise was reached in dedicating Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac river in 1932 within view of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and the White House, and the memorial location was thereafter sought elsewhere.[2]

Entrance to Akeley Hall of African Mammals

The statue is placed at the entrance to the hall of dioramas dedicated to Carl Akeley who had accompanied Roosevelt on a year-long expedition to Africa.

The work was designed to fit in the neo-classical plans of Henry Bacon to house this hall. An earlier monument by Fraser dedicated to Roosevelt in Cuba in 1924 was also designed with Henry Bacon, and they both attended its dedication in Cuba.[3]

The Akeley Hall of African Mammals features in the movie Night at the Museum, with Robin Williams in the role of Teddy Roosevelt who comes alive from his perch atop a horse in one of the dioramas rather than from the statue outside.

Subject of controversy

In 1999 James Loewen argued in Lies Across America that the statue was erected when the museum was openly racist, and that the arrangement of the figures is meant to advocate white supremacy.[4]

Subject of 2017 sculpture controversy

Despite Loewen's and others' remarks about the statue, this equestrian statue was never the subject of public controversy in the 20th century. It was mentioned in the April 2017 TED talk Can Art Amend History? by artist and activist Titus Kaphar, discussing the choice of pose showing that "Teddy Roosevelt is sitting there ...and on the left-hand side of him is a Native American walking and on the right-hand side of him is an African-American walking" as a representation of white social hierarchy in America.[5][6] After the August 2017 Charlottesville attack due to the controversial removal of an equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee, this and many other equestrian statues across America also became the focus of attempts to clean up America's "racist past". This statue was defaced with red paint on the morning of October 26, 2017. A few hours later, a group claiming responsibility for the defilement stated that the statue embodied “patriarchy, white supremacy, and settler-colonialism.”[7]

References

  1. ^ "Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, (sculpture)". SIRIS
  2. ^ a b Imagining TR: Commemorations and Representations of Theodore Roosevelt in Twentieth-Century America, 2014 dissertation by Jennifer Dawn Heth on Texas A&M University website
  3. ^ Dedication of Cuban Memorial, 1924. [No. 2 / [Roosevelt Memorial Association]. [United States : s.n., 1924?] United States.] in the Library of Congress
  4. ^ Loewen, James (1999). Lie Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 45. ISBN 1-56584-344-4. 
  5. ^ Titus Kaphar on TED website
  6. ^ Interview of Kaphar on NPR, which may have been recorded earlier and doesn't mention the vandalism
  7. ^ Tracy, Thomas (October 27, 2017). "Vandals splash red paint on Theodore Roosevelt statue on Museum of Natural History steps". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 31, 2017. 
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