For background and updates on my goal to post about women artists, click here.
Horace Mann byEmma Stebbins
Mary Dyer by Sylvia Shaw Judson
John F. Kennedy by Isabel McIlvain
Of the seven Massachusetts State House statues listed on the Public Art Walk, three are by women, each from a different generation. This prompts me to present them in time order, with basic facts, key links, and selected quotes.
Click on brick red text for links to information about statues and artists. Click on photos for full frames with captions and quotes.
First is Emma Stebbins (1815–1882). Her statue of Horace Mann (1796 – 1859) was unveiled July 4, 1865.
Photo of the plaster version of the statue from the artist’s scrapbook.
“…Horace Mann was both an important politician and an influential thinker whose ideas about educational reform shaped the modern American public school system.
He left the state Senate in 1837 to serve as the first Massachusetts Secretary of Education in 1837 and worked tirelessly to bolster public schools by increasing funding, promoting legislation, and improving training for teachers.
Mann ended his career in education as President of Antioch College in Ohio—one of the few institutions to accept African-American students at the time.”
Captions for the second, third and fourth photo are excerpts from description of the statue on the Public Art Walk site. For more about the art, relationships, personality, and choices of Emma Stebbins, read her Wikipedia biography and follow up with “The Public Career of Emma Stebbins: Work in Bronze” by Elizabeth Milroy, plus Smithsonian Archives of American Art: Emma Stebbins Scrapbook.
Next comes Sylvia Shaw Judson (1897–1978). Her statue, dated 1959, commemorates Mary Dyer (1611–1660), a Puritan turned Quaker, who was hanged on Boston Common for defying Puritan orders.
” Dyer challenged traditional Puritanism with her progressive beliefs. Governor John Winthrop repeatedly exiled Dyer from Massachusetts, but she returned to the colony nevertheless to visit imprisoned friends and protest her sentence.
Governor John Winthrop repeatedly exiled Dyer from Massachusetts, but she returned to the colony nevertheless to visit imprisoned friends and protest her sentence.
In 1660, she was hanged on the Boston Common for refusing to repent her supposedly heretical views.
The sculptor – herself a Quaker—has depicted Dyer in a reserved pose with no adornment. “
Captions for photos above are excerpts from description of the statue subject on the Public Art Walk site. Captions for photos below are excerpts from commentary about the artist in Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections.
“[Shaw’s] work became more simplified and even abstracted, in tune with major trends in her field, though her work often was conservatively accessible. She followed new expressions in European art.
In subject matter her work reflected the Quaker values and pacifism she embraced by the 1940s, quietly commenting on events of her times.
Mary Dyer, a portrait of a woman martyred for her religious ideas in Puritan-ruled colonial Boston, and dating from the mid 1950s
is a subtle commentary for tolerance in the era of MacCarthyism and blacklisting in a time of rabid anti-Communist hysteria. “
“Sylvia Judson sincerely believed that the visible outward form truly expresses the spirit within, and she applied this belief to her sculpture, to the way she lived and to the making of The Quiet Eye.” (quoted from forward by Alice Ryerson to reissue of Judson’s book The Quiet Eye, A Way of Looking at Pictures first published in 1954.)
Most recent is Isabel McIlvain (born 1943). Her statue of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was dedicated in 1990, on the 73rd anniversary of his birth.
“Kennedy served first in the [Massachusetts] House of Representatives and then in the Senate.
This sculpture captures Kennedy’s youth and poise as he walks confidently out of the Massachusetts State House.
With his arms bent and his gaze focused straight ahead, the figure appears to stride with a purpose in mind—perhaps his destination or the next task at hand.
On January 20, 1961, Kennedy became the youngest elected president of the United States, at age 43.”
Captions are excerpts from description of the JFK statue on the Public Art Walk site. For information about the artist, read a brief biography and view her sculpture.
Related Statehouse Statues From a facing view of the building, Daniel Webster is the right-hand match to Horace Mann, and Anne Hutchinson is the left-hand match for Mary Dyer. Refer to Public Art Walk information about Anne Hutchinson and Daniel Webster.
Daniel Webster (1782 – 1852) by Hiram Powers (1805 –1873)
Daniel Webster (lower right) and Horace Mann (lower left)
Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) by Cyrus Edwin Dallin (1861-1944)
(unveiled 1915), dedicated 1922) Anne Hutchinson by Cyrus Edwin Dallin
For more than a decade these two and other statues on the front lawn, blocked off from public access for security reasons, have been visible only from a distance. The Kennedy statue now has specific visiting hours that I haven’t signed for yet.
Base below the feet of Mary Dyer
Fence-restricted view of Horace Mann
Fence-restricted view of JFK
Viewing sign-in station inside the State House.
Of the statues noted here, the only one I have gotten close to is the one of Mary Dyer because it is outside the restricted front lawn. With each visit through a few seasons, I have grown more fascinated with the life of the artist and her subject. The enforced physical distance from the others has left me still remote from their potentially promising stories. And that has left me pondering some purposes and possibilities of public art. Your responses will guide me toward clarity. Thank you!