"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This 1907-08 bronze statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by  William Couper was installed in a triangular part at Connecticut Avenue and M Street in Washington, DC.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—82), one of the most celebrated American writers of the nineteenth century, was born into the prominent Longfellow family of Portland, Maine. Longfellow acquired an early interest in writing from his invalid mother, an enthusiastic admirer of poetry and music, rather than from his father, a lawyer and congressman. Upon graduation from Bowdoin College, of which his father was a trustee, Longfellow spent three years studying and traveling throughout Europe. After his return to the United States, he was appointed to the faculty of Harvard College in 1835. While living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Longfellow was very active socially, forming friendships with such figures as Charles Sumner and Nathaniel Hawthorne. His many books of prose and poetry began to appear in 1837 and eventually, because of his devotion to writing, he resigned from the Harvard faculty in 1854. Following the tragic death of his beloved wife in a fire in 1861, Longfellow became increasingly lonely and distressed. Longfellow's romantic writings were influenced by such figures as Washington Irving, Oliver Goldsmith, John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and other German romantics. He failed to show any sympathy for social reforms except for the abolition of slavery. Longfellow became extremely popular in America during his old age, and during the last third of the nineteenth century, many public schools throughout the East Coast celebrated his birthday. Gentle and kind, he has the distinction of being one of the few poets who was as admired for his personal qualities as he was respected for his professional accomplishments. Many of his poems, such as Evangeline, The Song of Hiawatha, “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” and “The Village Blacksmith” are known today as classics in American literature. -- Washington Sculpture: A Cultural History of Outdoor Sculpture in the Nation's Capital – February 23, 2009 by James M. Goode, Page 75. 
Sculpture was presented by the Longfellow Memorial Association at a cost of $21,000. Congress appropriated 4,000 dollars for the base and gave approval on June 8, 1906. Sculpture casting began in October 1907 and was completed by February 1908. The concrete foundation was laid on February 1st-20th, 1909. R. C. Blockson was the head designer for the Van Amringe Granite Company which acted as architect for the piece. The base granite was quarried in Sweden and then shipped to Aberdeen, Scotland, where it was manufactured. Jones Bros. handled the acquisition of the base. -- SIRIS
 Wm Couper
New York

Several sources, including Goode, say that this statue was begun by Thomas Ball and finished by Couper. SIRIS remarks that “National Park Service Central files indicate that Couper was the only artist involved.”

Gorham Co Founders

This photo of the sculpture appeared in the Journal of American History, Frances Trevelyan ed. Vol. 3, No. 1, 1909.

Centennial Sculptural Conception of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, by William Couper, of the National Sculptural Society, for erection in the City of Washington, District of Columbia; -- JAM 1909.

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