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William Cullen Bryant

Launt Thompson American

Not on view

William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878), poet and "Evening Post" editor, was a leader in the artistic and cultural life of New York. He was affiliated with many organizations, among them the National Academy of Design, the American Art-Union, and the Sketch Club, a forerunner to the Century Association. Bryant was involved in The Met as well, directing a meeting at the Union League Club on October 23, 1869, that resulted in the Museum’s organization. A founding trustee, he served as a vice president of the Board of Trustees from 1870 to 1874.

In this overlifesize bronze, Thompson, a preeminent New York portrait sculptor, faithfully records Bryant’s furrowed brow, wavy beard, and sagging skin. The impressive scale may be explained by the original intention to include the sculpture in a monument in Central Park commemorating Bryant and celebrating his seventieth birthday. It was never erected because of a resolution of the city’s Park Commission stating that no statue of a living person could be exhibited in the park. Instead the bust was lent to The Met in 1874 and immediately went on display; it is visible in Frank Waller’s painting "Entrance Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art when in Fourteenth Street" (ca. 1881; acc. no. 20.77).

William Cullen Bryant, Launt Thompson (Abbeyleix 1833–1894 Middletown, New York), Bronze, American

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