John Quincy Adams Ward was one of the best known American sculptors of the last half of the 19th century. He was the first cousin of Frances Glessner (through her father James Macbeth), and the Glessners owned and displayed several of his pieces in their Prairie Avenue home. A small exhibit about Ward, including a mantel clock featuring a copy of his first significant work, The Indian Hunter, will be on display in the museum visitor’s center through March 20, 2016.
Ward was born in 1830 in Urbana, Ohio, in the house constructed by his grandfather (and town founder), Col. William Ward a decade earlier. (Frances Macbeth Glessner was born in Urbana in 1848). After living with his sister in Brooklyn, New York and training under the well-established sculptor Henry Kirke Brown, he relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1857, creating portrait busts of men in public life. In 1861, he set up a studio in New York City.
His statuette, The Indian Hunter, was first exhibited in 1859 at both the Washington Art Association and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1862, he displayed the statuette again at the annual spring exhibition of the National Academy of Design. It was enthusiastically received, and he was elected an Associate of the Academy (and later served as President).
Ward enlarged his statuette into a life-size plaster cast after traveling to the Dakotas to make additional studies of Native Americans in their natural habitat. Displayed in the fall of 1865, his depiction of an American Indian was said to be “amongst the most authentic aboriginal physiognomical types extant in plastic art, so careful in detail are they executed.” After receiving private financial support from a group of 23 prominent artists and art patrons, Ward had the piece cast in bronze by the founder L. A. Amouroux at a cost of $10,000. It was then sent to the Paris Exposition in 1867.
Upon its return to the U.S., the original underwriters of the project presented the statue to the city of New York for erection in Central Park. Unveiled in February 1869, it was the first piece of American sculpture to be placed in the eleven-year-old park.
Sixteen copies of the statuette were eventually made, two plaster and fourteen bronze, of which a bronze was purchased by the Glessners for their Prairie Avenue home for display on the mantel in their master bedroom.
Additional life-size statues were made for Cooperstown, New York (unveiled 1898) and Buffalo, New York (unveiled 1926). A third statue was ordered by his Ward’s widow and unveiled at his grave in Oak Dale Cemetery in Urbana, Ohio in June 1914.
In 1882, Ward moved to a new larger studio on 52nd Street designed by his friend, the architect Richard Morris Hunt, who collaborated with him on many projects. He died at his home in New York City on May 1, 1910.
Among his more significant projects are the following:
· William Shakespeare (Central Park, New York City, 1872 - a copy of this statue was purchased by the Glessners and is on display in their library)
· Major General George Henry Thomas (Thomas Circle, Washington, D.C., 1879)
· Victory (Yorktown Victory Monument, Yorktown, Virginia, 1881)
· George Washington (Federal Hall, New York City, 1882)
· The Pilgrim (Central Park, New York City, 1884)
· James A. Garfield Monument (Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., 1887)
· Henry Ward Beecher Monument (Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn, New York, 1891)
· Equestrian statue of General Winfield S. Hancock (Smith Memorial Arch, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1898)
· Integrity Protecting the Works of Man (Pediment of the New York Stock Exchange Building, Manhattan, New York, City, 1903)
· General Phillip H. Sheridan (East Capitol Park, Albany, New York, 1916 - installed posthumously)
The museum is grateful to Black Point Estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for loaning their mantel clock to our exhibit. The Estate, constructed in 1888 for Chicago brewer Conrap Seipp, is an incredibly well-preserved example of the large summer “cottages” constructed for Chicago’s business leaders along the shore of Lake Geneva in the late 19th century. The site is operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society and is open seasonally from May through October. For more information, visit blackpointestate.wisconsinhistory.org.