Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BROWN, Henry Kirke, sculptor, born in Leyden, Massachusetts, 24 February, 1814; died in Newburg, New York, 10 July, 1886. In early boyhood he evinced a talent for painting, and when about fourteen years old, without any instruction, and before he had ever seen a work of art, he executed a creditable portrait of an old man. At the age of seventeen he began to study with Chester Harding, a portrait painter of Boston. The summers from 1836 till 1839 were spent in surveying on the Illinois central railroad, and the winters in Cincinnati painting and modelling in clay. His first finished work in this line was an ideal female head. After a winter in Boston he removed first to Troy and soon afterward to Albany, New York, where he devoted him self to sculpture, executing portrait busts of many gentlemen of Albany and the neighboring cities. Among these are the Rev. William B. Sprague, D. D., Erastus Coming, Dr. Eliphalet Nott, and Silas Duteher. He also produced two ideal statues, "Hope," and a discobolus. Accompanied by his wife, he went to Italy in 1842 and remained there until 1846. During this period he executed "Ruth," a group representing a boy and a dog, now owned by the historical society of New York, a "Rebecca," and a "David," which was destroyed. On his return to the United States he opened a temporary studio in New York, brought over skilled workmen from Europe, and (lid some preliminary work in bronze casting, the first attempted in this country. In 1848 he went among the Indians and modeled many interesting subjects, some of which were reproduced in bronze. About this time he made the altarpiece for the church of the Annunciation in New York, and modeled portrait busts of William Cullen Bryant and Dr. Willard Parker, both of whom were his warm personal friends. About 1850 he built a studio in Brooklyn, and for two years was engaged with the statue of De Witt Clinton for Greenwood cemetery. This was the first bronze statue cast in this country. During these years and until 1855 he was at work on the fine equestrian statue of Washington in Union square, New York. In 1857 he was invited by the state of South Carolina to undertake the decoration of the state-house in Columbia, which current rumor made the capital of the then projected confederacy. The principal design was a group for the main pediment, a colossal ideal figure of South Carolina, with Justice and Liberty on either hand, while the industries were represented by Negro slaves at work in cotton- and rice-fields. The figure of South Carolina was nearly finished when the civil war began, and Sherman's soldiers, regarding it as the typical genius of secession, destroyed it when they passed through Columbia in 1865. Mr. Brown made many friends during his residence in the south, was strongly urged to east his lot with the seceding states, and remained in fulfillment of his professional contract until hostilities actually began. During 1859 and 1860 he served on an art commission appointed by President Buchanan, and wrote a report, submitted 9 March, 1860, which to some extent disseminated correct ideas about art among members of both houses of congress. During the civil war he was an active officer of the sanitary commission. Mr. Brown's average work undeniably suffers by comparison with the highest standards; but his best efforts evince earnestness and dignity and no small degree of artistic talent. The equestrian statues are particularly good, a result doubtless due to his love for horses. His artistic career will always be noteworthy as covering the whole period of American sculpture from its very beginning until a time when our sculptors had worked their way to the foremost rank of contemporary artists. The following-named statues are among his principal works: " Dr. Geo. W. Bethune," in Packer institute, Brooklyn (1865); " Lincoln," in Prospect park, Brooklyn (1866); "Gen. Nathanael Greene," for the state of Rhode Island, presented to the national gallery in the capitol at Washington (1867); "Lincoln," in Union square, New York (1867-'8); " Equestrian Statue of Gen. Scott," for the U. S. government (begun in 1871), considered his best work ; "Gen. George Clinton," for presentation to the U. S. government by the state of New York (1873); "Gen. Philip Kearny," in Newark, N. J., also "Richard Stockton," for the state of New Jersey (1874); "An Equestrian Statue of Gen. Nathanael Greene," for the national government (1875-'7); "The Resurrection" (1877).
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