|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|One of the leading 19th-century American neoclassical* sculptors, "Thomas Crawford was the only one of the first generation of American neoclassical sculptors to become known as master of public statuary." (Tolles, 34) He was
born in New York City and spent most of his career in Rome, Italy with
only brief trips to the United States including in 1844, 1849, and
1856. "Crawford |
He began his career working for the stone-cutting firm of
Frazee and Launitz, owned by John Frazee and Robert E. Launitz, two individuals who would have an impact on Crawford's career. Frazee was
one of America's first artists to work successfully in the classical*
tradition, and Launitz introduced Crawford to his teacher, Bertel
Thorwaldsen, then a famous Danish sculptor.
In late 1835,
Crawford sailed from New York City to Rome, with a letter of
introduction from Launitz to Thorwaldsen. Crawford became his American pupil, and established a studio in Rome, which became a
popular place to visit by American tourists. Crawford received
many commissions for portrait busts, including political figure Charles
Sumner, who became his friend and strongest supporter. Crawford's
bust of Sumner brought praise and along with it other commissions,
which allowed him to be challenged with more idealism as subject
matter. One of these pieces was Orpheus, Crawford's first major neoclassical conception. It was a full-length ideal work, and received much praise.
persuaded a group of wealthy patrons to raise money to have it carved
in marble and then acquire it for the Boston Athenaeum. So
successful was Orpheus in its combination of lofty theme and
purity of revived classical aesthetic that Crawford was honored by a
small sculpture exhibition at the Athenaeum, the first one-man
exhibition of the work of an American sculptor.
installation brought Crawford fame equal to that of his well-known
contemporaries working in Florence, Horatio Greenough and Hiram
Powers. It also brought him commissions, not only for the
portraiture work but for sculptures with lofty, idealized themes.
was also a prolific sculptor of public monuments. In 1844,
Crawford left Rome for New York City, marrying his wife, Lou, and
trying unsuccessfully to get Congress to commission an equestrian
George Washington. But after a year, the couple returned to Rome,
where he continued to create portrait busts, idealistic works, and at
least one historically themed work, Dying Mexican Princess.
However, in 1849, Crawford won a competition to do an equestrian statue
of George Washington for the city of Richmond, Virginia.
His most complete work was The Progress of American Civilization
(1853-63), the head sculpture for the Senate Wing of the U.S. Capitol,
Washington, D.C. The theme of the work is the contrasts of the
civilization of the white man with the dying way of life of the
Crawford died at an early age in London after
surgery to remove a tumor behind his eye. Much of his work was
completed by his American colleagues in Rome, under the supervision of
his widow. Then his studio casts were placed on exhibition in a
New York Armory, a collection designed to become the core for a museum
in the city, but unfortunately was destroyed in a fire.
Baigell, Matthew, Dictionary of American Art
Thayer Tolles, Editor, American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
* For more in-depth information about
these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|
Thomas Crawford is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913