Pandemic Art Adventures: Boston Public Garden

The closing of museums during the pandemic put me in a state of art withdrawal.  In search of a fix, I traveled to various locations in the Greater Boston area looking for publicly-accessible art.  On several days in June, I wandered around downtown Boston, looking for public art. I found quite a bit of art in Boston Public Garden, which I was able to identify either through plaques or an online search. Here are some photos and descriptions of what I discovered.

  1. The Ether Monument (1868)
The oldest artwork in the Public Garden, the Ether Monument (also known as the Good Samaritan Monument) is dedicated to the discovery of ether as an anesthetic in the 1840s. Although there is evidence that ether was used by Crawford Long in Georgia as early as 1842, the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia was conducted in 1846 at Massachusetts General Hospital (in what is now called the Ether Dome) by William T.G. Morton, a dentist, and Dr. John Collins Warren. The monument was designed by William Robert Ware and and sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1867 and was installed in 1868. The figures at the top represent the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan (see detail below).
Each of the four sides of the monument contains a relief sculpture. Shown about is an allegorical representation of the Triumph of Science.
A patient undergoing an operation in a civic hospital.
A solider undergoing surgery in a military field hospital.
The Angel of Mercy descending to relieve suffering humanity.

2. Equestrian Statue of George Washington (1869)

The Equestrian Statue of George Washington in the Public Garden was created by Thomas Ball and installed in 1869. Ball, a Charlestown, Massachusetts native, was an accomplished sculptor, painter and musician (voice).

3. Statue of Charles Sumner (1878)

Thomas Ball’s statue of Charles Sumner was erected in the Public Garden in 1878. Sumner served as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts from 1851 to 1874. He was a member of the Radical Republican group that opposed slavery and supported harsh treatment of the Southern states after the Civil War.

4. Statue of Colonel Thomas Cass (1899)

An 1899 statue of Colonel Thomas Cass by Richard Edwin Brooks, a sculptor born in Braintree, Massachusetts. Born in Ireland, Thomas Cass commanded the 9th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on the Union side in the U.S. Civil War. He died in 1862 of wounds suffered in the Battle of Malvern Hill.

5. Wendell Philips Monument (1915)

Daniel Chester French created the monument to Boston abolitionist Wendell Phillips in 1915. In addition to his anti-slavery work, Phillips was a pioneer advocate for the rights of women and Native Americans.

6. George Robert White Memorial (1924)

The George Robert White Memorial, dated 1924, was created by Daniel Chester French. The central figure is the Angel of the Waters. White was a Boston business owner and philanthropist. He made significant charitable contributions to the City of Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Details of the memorial are shown below.
The Angel of the Waters.
One of the ram’s head water spouts.

7. Statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko (1927)

Noted Boston-area sculptor Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson created this statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko in 1927. Kitson was the first female member of the American Sculpture Society. Kosciuszko was a Polish-Lithuanian military leader who served as a colonel with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. His expertise as a military engineer (including overseeing fortifications at West Point, NY) led the revolutionaries to promote him to brigadier general.

8. Small Child Fountain (1929)

The Small Child Fountain, dating to 1929, was created by Mary Moore, a sculptor born in Taunton, Massachusetts.

9. Boy with Bird Fountain (1934, 1977, 1992)

The Boy and Bird Fountain, by Bashka Paeff, originally dates to 1934, but it was recast in 1977 and 1992. Paeff was born in Minsk (now Belarus) and lived and worked in the Boston area.

10. Make Way for Ducklings (1987)

Probably the most famous statues in the Public Garden are those memorializing the characters in Robert McCloskey’s 1941 book “Make Way for Ducklings.” The sculptures were created in 1987 by Boston-area artist Nancy Schön, who also made the statues of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends outside the Newton Public Library. At the time this photo was taken, someone had outfitted the ducklings in colorful knitted sweaters.

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