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Capitol Ohio : Lincoln-Vicksburg Monument (Art Walk Series)
The Lincoln-Vicksburg Monument was unveiled in 1871 by Thomas Dow Jones. A clay bust of Lincoln was originally created in 1861, when Lincoln would pose for Jones one hour a day. After Lincoln's assassination, Jones was commissioned to sculpt a marble memorial honoring Civil War soldiers and America's 16th president. Using the clay bust as a reference, Jones spent six years working on the Lincoln-Vicksburg Monument. The bust was carved by Jones on the ground floor of the Ohio Statehouse. Jones stayed in the Relic Room on the third floor of the Statehouse while working on this piece. The monument was originally installed in the Statehouse Rotunda in January 1871.
The end result was a large sculpture estimated to weigh 9,900 pound
s. Lincoln's bust rests at the top, while an interpretation of Confederate officers surrendering to Union soldiers at Vicksburg, MS is in the middle. Beneath the soldiers lies a quote from Lincoln's second inaugural address which says, "Care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphans."
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Paintings and sculptures are meant to be monuments, are meant to be memory devices, sort of, for us - ways of us remembering those people that came before us, those events that shape the history of their lives and our lives, and when you think about that, you know, I think we often think of those just in terms of monuments, but historic paintings are just as much monuments. This is, this was done, commissioned, very shortly after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It is by Thomas D. Jones, who again, is an Ohio artist. He was not born in Ohio. He was actually born in Oneida, New York, but came here has a child and, I take that back, he came here, I think, as a young man. His family moved here when he was a young man, and actually lived over in Licking County. I live in Licking County, so I think it's kind of neat, in the Welch Hills area just outside of Granville. Jones is really an interesting figure. He had a really, kind of, hard time getting much training, a lot of being self-taught but also trying to get connected to stone masons, to people doing work in sculpture, so that he could learn, he eventually opens a studio in Cincinnati. Jones is a very entrepreneurial figure. He kind of early on figured out that his niche was bust sculptures of historic figures. This is, this is the topping of this monument, this is the Lincoln-Vicksburg Monument, and topping that is this oversized bust of Lincoln. Now he had already done one bust of Lincoln, and he also did a bust of a famous Ohio public figure called Salmon Chase, Salmon P. Chase. So he got this idea, he would make the original bust out of, you know, some kind of stone, and then he would create replicas in plaster, which he would sell for five bucks. And at one point, he swore that he had sold more than 200 replicas of the Chase bust in plaster in Columbus alone. He had sold over 200 in this one city. So he had this little business going about getting replicas out so everybody could have their own little piece of history. But the main thing he would do would be these beautiful busts, mostly in different kinds of marble. This was commissioned very shortly after Lincoln's assassination. There was- some writers think that this was Jones' idea himself, and he sort of pushed it with the legislature. There is other, sort of historical evidence that actually the legislature wanted to do this, and they commissioned it, and there was a competition, and Jones sort of wins that competition. Now you might say, "I get the whole bit about Lincoln, but what's all this in the middle?" So what is all this Vicksburg stuff here? So if you remember your history of the Civil War, the Battle of Vicksburg was a critical battle on the western front of the Civil War, and it was in the western front that most of the Ohio battalions served. And so Vicksburg had a lot of Ohio soldiers in it, and the Vicksburg battle was critical in the turning of the war in 1863, and in controlling the Mississippi. This is where we get control, the Union gets control, of the Mississippi and is able to move, you know, materials and men much easier. Below you have, now you'll see this in a lot of monuments, historic monuments, you'll see them in a lot of funiary monuments, where you have a quote that's supposed to sort of embody the idea of the monument. This quote comes from Lincoln's second inaugural, and for those of you who can't read it, it says, "Care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphans." And then above, you've got, you know, the major players of the Vicksburg, the Battle of Vicksburg, and you've got the, Grant leading the way, you've got Sherman in there. So all Ohio, and Grant, this, actually, Vicksburg was the battle that really pushed Grant's reputation, again, Ohio connection, and Grant will, of course, become the President after the war. And so this is the repositioning of Grant as well. Now, monuments have histories, and I think this is very interesting. Styles change, tastes change, and sometimes, you know, people come and they go "Oh, this looks very tired," or "I don't like this painting anymore. This isn't the point of view that we want to have anymore." And so you'll see in any historical site, that paintings and works of art come and go. This monument, which was greatly heralded, it was unveiled in I think January of 1871, big unveiling, and whenever we have a new work of art, you know, have a big unveiling ceremony for it, and it was one of the last major pieces, actually, before I tell you, this dismantling, one of the last major pieces that Jones did. Jones died in the 1880s. He sort of has an unraveling after this, he is not able to keep up with the work he was doing, and at one point is sort of, you know, runs off to Texas and vanishes for a while, but this is one of his last great, I think, the height of his career. You're seeing the very best of Mr. Jones' work. So, at some point, they decided took it down. Like, somebody came through and said, "Ok, we really like the bust of Lincoln, but who cares about Vicksburg, that was a long time ago, and you know, we're trying to heal our wounds, and it doesn't seem like we need to be rubbing everybody's face in the fact that the Union won Vicksburg," you know, things like that, and they took it apart, and it wasn't until the restoration of the Statehouse that they brought the pieces back together, so the Vicksburg piece was sort of still around, but it was kind of shoved off in another corner, and the bust of Lincoln was somewhere else, and they brought it back together so you're seeing it the way it was intended to be seen, the way it was conceptualized, by the artists, except for one piece. When they took it apart, they moved it around, they lost the granite base. So what you see the base is a new base that was produced so that it could be put back up in the Statehouse. It's got the same scale, though, of the original bust. But you can see that, you know, it's just extraordinary, the craftsmanship of 19th century sculpture, where, look at these figures. I mean, look at the way in which the stone takes on the feeling of cloth, and the animation of those figures as he tries to capture this moment. And the other thing that you do in sculpture like this is you're trying to create a sense of stage space, and, it's really hard to see, but, you'll never be able to see this in the little clip that they'll show you, but it will give you an excuse to come to your Statehouse and visit, but you will see that they actually have horses that were clearly supposed to be in the background, so they are barely carved out in relief, and then the figures of the soldiers are in almost completely three-dimensional relief, so you've got this idea of space.
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