Curators, Scholars Select the Nation’s Greatest Memorial Sculptures

The Art Newspaper:  As the debate rages about divisive Confederate monuments, five leading US scholars and curators pick the nation’s greatest memorial sculptures

Boston’s memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which sensitively depicts African American soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War, is the nation’s greatest public sculpture, in the opinion of Thayer Tolles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s curator of American paintings and sculpture. Its creator, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was “the most significant sculptor at the turn of the 20th century” in the US, she tells us. “He said of the Shaw memorial: ‘A sculptor’s work endures for so long that it is next to a crime for him to neglect to do everything that lies in his power to execute a result that will not be a disgrace… It is plastered up before the world to stick and stick, for centuries while man and nations pass away.’ That’s remarkably prescient given what is going on now, with monuments being looked at under a lens and beyond issues of quality to who is being depicted and where they’re located,” Tolles says.


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