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Rip Van Winkle On The Mountain

Classification: 
Date: 
1871
Medium: 
Painted plaster with metal parts
Dimensions: 
Overall: 20 5/8 x 10 x 9 1/4 in. ( 52.4 x 25.4 x 23.5 cm )
Description: 
Literary figure.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Object Number: 
1929.107
Marks: 
signed: proper left side top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: front of base: "RIP VAN WINKLE/ ON THE MOUNTAIN"
Gallery Label: 
Rogers' three Rip Van Winkle groups comprise his first formal series. The artist's long-standing interest in storytelling was already well known, and viewers enjoyed decoding the narratives implied in the meticulous detail of his groups. For this serial subject, Rogers expanded his notion of narrative beyond the use of accessories to create a more powerful sense of temporality with multiple groups. He chose a particularly appropriate theme, which centers on the passage of time. Washington Irving wrote "Rip Van Winkle" in 1819, and it quickly became one of his most popular tales. It tells about the years before the American Revolutionary War, when Rip Van Winkle lives in a village at the foot of New York's Catskill Mountains. An amiable man whose home and farm suffer from his lazy neglect, he is loved by everyone except his wife. One autumn day he escapes her nagging by wandering into the mountains. There he encounters strangely dressed men, rumored to be the ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew, who are playing ninepins. After drinking some of their liquor, he settles down under a shady tree and falls asleep. He wakes and returns to his village, where he finds twenty years have passed. Late-nineteenth-century Americans were intimately familiar with Irving's story and its popularity owed in large part to its huge success as a stage play starring Joseph Jefferson. One of the most acclaimed actors of his time, Jefferson first starred in a production of Rip Van Winkle in 1859. By 1883 he estimated that he had played the part on no fewer than 4,500 occasions. Rogers saw Jefferson play the role in 1869, and he asked Jefferson to sit for the sculptures. The artist's talents as a portraitist served him well; the series enjoyed acclaim and popularity, remaining in Rogers' catalogue until the end of his career. Praises for the series connected it closely with Jefferson and his fame as Rip, making the groups as much icons of popular culture as of literary culture. One critic of Rogers' sculptures spent nearly as much ink on Jefferson as on the works themselves, claiming, "Jefferson has made the story of Rip more truly his own than it even is Washington Irving's." In taking on a beloved American story that had been turned into a wildly successful play, Rogers translated Irving's story from book to stage to plaster, and he carefully negotiated the layers of meaning that accumulated with each of these transitions. He made judicious choices about which aspects he would retain and which he would eliminate, taking full advantage of the unique capabilities of his medium. Contemporary critics were well aware of these fine distinctions, and more than one noted that the settings Rogers chose were taken not from the play, but from Irving's story. The New York Evening Post writer commented that in spite of Rip's "'Jeffersonian' cast," the surroundings closely followed Irving's text. A Chicago critic pointed out that "although [Rogers] faithfully portrays the great actor in the person of Rip, he does not copy any situation occurring in the drama." At the same time, Rip was "attired in a dress literally copied from what Jefferson wears in the early scenes of the play, every fold and wrinkle and tatter of which is familiar to us all." Rogers' union of literature, theater, and sculpture was considered particularly nuanced and successful: one writer noted, "If there is less of the plain A.B.C. in these groups than Mr. Rogers has usually given to the world, there is a delicate, half-hidden subtlety of expressions and touch that are nonetheless readily comprehended by those who can read character by facial expression." Rogers introduced each composition in his sales catalogues with a quote from Irving's tale explaining the action, and Jefferson's character and likeness are naturally the focus of attention. However, the space Rogers created was not a theatrical box with one frontal vantage point (as in his later Shakespearean groups). Rather, Rogers exploited the sculptural medium to show each incident in the round, from all sides. His spiraling compositions create a vertiginous sense of disorientation that is perfectly in keeping with the mood of Irving's tale. In this second group, after having been driven from his home by his wife, Rip travels up the mountain, where he hears someone calling his name. Rogers' catalogue quoted Irving, describing how Rip and his dog Wolf met a "short, square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion. . . . He bore on his shoulder a stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and help him with the load." Rogers' composition leads the viewer from the gnome looking up at Rip with twinkling eyes to Rip's dog, Wolf, who twists around his master and looks warily at the mysterious stranger. Rip's hand on Wolf's collar continues the line of action to his puzzled and suspicious expression (both figures carry guns, lending a note of menace). Rogers created a richly textured narrative that invites the viewer to follow the spiral around all sides of the piece.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. Newark Daily Advertiser, Newark, N.J., Sep. 30, 1871, p. 1. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Oct. 16, 1871, p. 2. The Aldine, New York, Vol. IV, No. 11, November, 1871, p. 181. Partridge, William Ordway, "John Rogers, The Peoples Sculptor," The New England Magazine, Feb., 1896, Vol. XIII, No. 6, pp. 705-21. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.76-7. Baker, Charles E., "John Rogers As He Depicted American Literature," American Collector, Vol. 13, No. 10, pp. 10-1, 16. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 109, 111, 144, 166-7, 226-7, 294, 301, 304. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1979, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 128-9.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1871
eMuseum Object ID: 
61
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Faust and Marguerite: Their First Meeting

Classification: 
Date: 
1890
Medium: 
Painted plaster and glass composition
Dimensions: 
Overall: 23 x 16 3/4 x 9 5/8 in. ( 58.4 x 42.5 x 24.4 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1932.95
Marks: 
signed: proper right top of base: "14 W 12 ST/JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: front of base: "FAUST AND MARGUERITE/THEIR FIRST MEETING"
Gallery Label: 
Rogers' late oeuvre includes a number of scenes from popular plays of his day, among them several works of Shakespeare and Washington Irving's tale "Rip Van Winkle." In these two groups, the artist took his subject from an opera. The French composer Charles Gounod's Faust, loosely based on the novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, was a huge success in Paris in the 1860s, and it quickly became part of the standard international repertoire throughout the late nineteenth century. This particularly lavish production called for elaborate sets and costumes, a large chorus, and a ballet. It was such a favorite in New York that it opened the opera season every year for decades; Edith Wharton referred to the tradition in her novel The Age of Innocence. Rogers chose three moments in the early acts of the play that show the budding romance between Faust and Marguerite. Faust, an aging and disillusioned scholar, bargains with the devil Mephistopheles for the opportunity to experience all things in exchange for his soul. Transformed into a handsome young man, he pursues the lovely Marguerite. The opening group of the series depicts the end of act 2. Titled Their First Meeting, it shows Faust offering his arm to Marguerite, who shrinks back modestly. The prayer beads hanging from her waist attest to her piety. In his sales catalogue Rogers reproduced their dialogue from Bayard Taylor's 1870 translation of the opera. The newly young suitor greets her, saying, "Fair lady, may I thus make free / To offer you my arm and company?" She responds austerely, "I am no lady, am not fair / Can without escort home repair." As Rogers did with the Rip Van Winkle series, here he created a simple composition for each group, intending that the three together would form a unified and more complex whole. In the second group of the series, Marguerite and Martha: Trying on the Jewels, Faust, with Mephistopheles' help, has left a casket of jewels at Marguerite's door. She tries them on in the company of her old guardian Martha, admiring their effect on her appearance in a hand mirror. In the opera, the young woman expresses her rapture over the beauty of these ornaments with a famous aria known as "The Jewel Song." For whatever reason, Rogers neither advertised this group nor included it in his sales catalogues, though it is referred to in at least one contemporary newspaper. It is difficult to understand why the artist downplayed the middle group of his series, particularly one that referenced a well-known and beloved moment in a vastly popular opera. Whatever his reasons, very few versions were sold, and it is now one of his rarest groups (in fact, the N-YHS does not own a copy of it). The final group shows Faust triumphant at the end of act 3. He has come to Marguerite's garden, and, after she plays a flirtatious game of "I love thee, I love thee not" with her flowers, she confesses her affection and allows Faust to kiss her. They part, but it is clear that Faust's seduction will succeed. In Rogers' composition both engage equally in high coquetry: Faust kisses her hand with a longing look, and she accepts his advances with a feigned shyness that is belied by her outstretched hand and tilted head. As Rogers did with groups taken from the stage, he included an architectural element that suggests a set piece. Marguerite processes up a partial staircase with richly scrolling ironwork; leaves and foliage below hint at the garden where their tryst takes place. Rogers ended his series on this romantic note, but his audience would have been well aware of the grimmer scenes that followed. Faust impregnates Marguerite and abandons her. She then kills her child and as a result is to be hanged. In a rather thin version of a happy ending, Marguerite rejects Mephistopheles' offer of rescue from execution. As she mounts the scaffold, a chorus of angels announces that she is saved and will find the reward for her virtue in heaven. The series was created at a time when Rogers' sales were declining and he was developing a tremor in his hand that would soon end his career. They are among his final works.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vol. 1, New York Historical Society. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 74. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.98-9. Baker, Charles E., "John Rogers As He Depicted American Literature," American Collector, Vol. 13, No. 10, pp. 10-1, 16. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 109, 266-7, 295. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 216-7.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1890
eMuseum Object ID: 
60
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Neighboring Pews

Classification: 
Date: 
December 1883
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 18 1/2 x 15 3/4 x 12 1/4 in. ( 47 x 40 x 31.1 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.638
Marks: 
signed: proper right side of top of the base: "JOHN ROGERS/ NEW YORK/1883" inscribed: on back-proper left pew: "PATENTED JAN.29/1884." inscribed: front of base: "NEIGHBORING PEWS"
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. While Rogers was developing his life-size equestrian statue of General John Fulton Reynolds (which still stands outside Philadelphia's City Hall), he continued to work on the smaller groups that made his fame. His output during the late 1870s and 1880s alternated between theatrical vignettes from the works of Shakespeare and scenes of country life, often inspired by his experiences in the village of New Canaan, Connecticut, where he had lived since the late 1870s. Neighboring Pews combines Rogers' flair for domestic drama with the recurring theme of love and flirtation. Twenty-first-century viewers might mistake the scene for a nostalgic portrayal of an earlier, simpler rural existence. However, rather than receding into the past, Rogers' scene depicts contemporary life and its foibles. He took care to clothe his figures in the fashions of the day, and even the pew bears the Gothic Revival style that was then popular in ecclesiastical architecture and the decorative arts. Rogers shows two women arriving late to church. The man behind them indicates to the younger of the two the proper place in the hymnal to join in the singing, and her elderly companion is, in Rogers' words, "indignant at the preference shown." The young woman is modestly but fashionably dressed with a nosegay on her shoulder, and her hat is adorned with a beautifully curling feather that echoes her carefully coiffed hair. She smiles sweetly at the handsome man who solicitously points out the correct page. The seated older woman glares at her, and Rogers conveys that her irritation is not because she considers such flirtation improper, but because she is not the object of the young man's courtesy. She, too, is dressed to attract attention, with ruffles at her hem and collar, a lacy shawl, a bonnet bedecked with a large bow, and curls at her temples as artful as those of her young charge. Meanwhile, in the pew ahead of them, a small boy reclines wearing his father's hat, preoccupied with trying on his gloves. During this period Rogers began to examine the dynamics between younger and older generations in this and other groups such as A Matter of Opinion (1929.88, 1948.420) and A Frolic at the Old Homestead (1936.631, 1929.104). The figures represented in Neighboring Pews range from childhood and youth to old age. A writer for the Southern World understood the artist's intention, noting that the scene spanned "manly politeness and boyish mischief." As a fifty-four-year-old man with both an elderly father and children approaching adulthood, Rogers was sensitive to intergenerational dynamics. Just as the figures enter each other's spaces with their twisting motions, looks, and gestures, the artist suggests how communal ties bring them together in shared experiences and, in this case, a bit of jealousy and a gently humorous satire of feminine vanity. His model for the older woman was a Mrs. Allen, who summered in a cottage across the road from Rogers' home. His daughter described her as "the happy second wife of a second husband," and one can imagine the amusement a merry soul might find in posing with such a comically sour expression. Rogers released his sculpture in time for Christmas shopping, and newspapers enthusiastically recommended it as a gift, particularly for pastors. It became one of his most popular groups; a remarkable accomplishment given its late date, as opposed to earlier popular groups such as Coming to the Parson (1936.649, 1929.102, INV.710, 1948.411) that had enjoyed prodigious sales for many years. Neighboring Pews was praised for its careful balance of humor and dignity. As one Pennsylvania newspaper put it: "it is delineated with a touch of humor which while doing no violence to propriety in the treatment of the subject." By this period, however, Rogers faced increasing criticism for his sculptures' inoffensive crowd-pleasing character, which some read as blandness.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. "Work Without Pay," The Studio, New York, Vol. 11, No. 41, October 13, 1883, p.1. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 76. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.92-3. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 114, 116, 125, 250, 294. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1970, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 186-7.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1883
eMuseum Object ID: 
59
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

"Is It So Nominated In The Bond?"

Classification: 
Date: 
March 1880
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 23 x 18 1/2 x 11 3/4 in. ( 58.4 x 47 x 29.8 cm )
Description: 
Theatrical figure: Subject taken from Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.659
Marks: 
signed: proper right front corner of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/1880" inscribed: 2nd step at back: "PATENTED JUNE 1th 1880" inscribed: front of base: "ANTONIO BASSANIO PORTIA SHYLOCK./ "IS IT SO NOMINATED IN THE BOND?"
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. Rogers contemplated the plays of Shakespeare as a potential subject from the earliest years of his professional career. In 1861 he wrote of his plans for a series, and he assayed a handful of such themes into 1862, including one titled The Merchant of Venice, which he showed at the National Academy of Design (to his dismay, it went unnoticed). No examples of these early groups survive. Nearly twenty years passed before the Bard resurfaced in Rogers' work. The artist's skills and ambition had grown considerably, and for his first mature Shakespearean group he returned to The Merchant of Venice to create the complex and ambitious "Is It So Nominated in the Bond?" The line that Rogers quoted as his title is taken from the climactic trial scene. Shylock, at right, has come to collect a pound of flesh from Antonio in penalty for defaulting on Shylock's loan to him. The dashing young Bassanio holds a bag of gold that Shylock has refused in lieu of payment on his friend's behalf. Distinguished Antonio (modeled after the artist's friend the Reverend Robert Collyer) has shed his cloak and is opening his shirt, preparing for the dreadful fulfillment of their bargain. Looming over the three men is Portia, disguised as a judge. In keeping with Rogers' earlier depictions of intelligent, capable women, she presides over this tangled legal web, dispensing justice and ultimately foiling Shylock. Here she urges Shylock to have a surgeon on hand to attend to Antonio's wounds and Shylock makes his merciless retort. He is the picture of evil and menace, with hooked nose, grimacing face, and pointed beard, brandishing the tools he will use to exact his fee. His skullcap identifies him as a Jew, and Rogers' caricatured portrayal was in keeping with the malicious stereotyping inherent in Shakespeare's portrayal of the moneylender. The composition is a ballet of interlocking gestures: as Antonio shrugs off his cloak, Bassanio puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder. As Portia appeals to Shylock, he points to the document in her hand. Rogers took on the difficult task of conveying the tension and dynamism of the moment in a static form; the characters convey a range of emotions and relate to one another through animated gestures as Shylock's menacing words hang in the air. Late-nineteenth-century Americans were much more familiar with the works of Shakespeare than we are today, and contemporary writers responded strongly to Rogers' characterizations, offering vivid descriptions of the figures that were familiar to them from their own reading and from the popular stage, particularly the villainous Shylock with his exaggerated features. "Is It So Nominated in the Bond?" struck a chord with middle-class Americans. Recommended for teachers and students, it proved to be Rogers' most popular Shakespearean subject and one of the best-selling groups in his entire oeuvre.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 76. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp. 88-9. Baker, Charles E., "John Rogers As He Depicted American Literature," American Collector, Vol. 13, No. 10, pp. 10-1, 16. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 109, 193, 246-7, 276, 294, 304. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1979, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 176-7.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1880
eMuseum Object ID: 
57
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

The Wrestlers

Classification: 
Date: 
1881
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 27 x 17 1/2 x 11 1/2 in. ( 68.6 x 44.4 x 29.2 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.645
Marks: 
signed: proper right top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/1881 14 W 12 ST" inscribed: 2nd step on back: "PATENTED. Sept./20/1881/14 W 12 ST" inscribed: front of base: "THE WRESTLERS" inscribed: front edge of base: "CECIA ROSALIND CHARLES ORLANDO TOUC
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. Rogers produced several groups after Shakespearean subjects in the late 1870s and 1880s, but he had declared his high ambitions for them decades earlier. In 1861 he wrote that he wanted to produce a series in uniform size "so that they will mate well" and continued, "Taking my designs from Shakespeare will give them a dignity that everyday subjects don't have." By the time Rogers turned to these themes in earnest, he had developed the skill and capability to produce a tour de force like The Wrestlers. Taken from act 1, scene 2 of As You Like It, Rogers' scene depicts the young Orlando about to throw Charles, the professional wrestler favored to win the match, as Celia, Rosalind, and the jester Touchstone look on. Rogers' elaborate composition compresses the action into a small, round area, in contrast to the squared-off stagelike space of his other Shakespearean groups. The circular base of the sculpture highlights a spiraling composition that draws the eye from the concerned faces of Celia and Rosalind down to the jester's amusement, continuing to the underdog Orlando bodily lifting Charles. Rogers presented the men in a remarkably precarious position that showcases his hard-won ability to create complex poses and reliably reproduce them en masse in plaster. The sculpture is striking for the astounding detail of the women's and the jester's costumes and the elaborate (if abbreviated) balcony on which they stand. Also notable is Rogers' mastery of the human figure, demonstrated in Charles' musculature, entirely convincing even in his contorted pose. Rogers' description for The Wrestlers goes beyond the well-known text of the play. Whereas the script merely indicates that the two men wrestle, Rogers offers a more detailed scenario, explaining that "Charles is thrown, for, by a trick well known to professional wrestlers, as they stand facing each other, Orlando suddenly seizes Charles by one arm and whirls him around, which enables him to clasp him from behind and lift him from the ground so as to throw him on his shoulders. Charles tries to break Orlando's hold by twisting open his hands." Rogers was an avid theatergoer and, though not a sports enthusiast, attended a professional fight while developing this group to study the positions of the athletes. The sculptor's other Shakespearean groups were titled with a line from the play being depicted, and he often chose scenes that established principal characters' relation to one another or that began the trajectory of the action, as in "Madam, Your Mother Craves a Word with You" or "Ha! I Like Not That!" In this case, Rogers chose not a dialogue, but an exciting and dynamic action, as the untutored naïf Orlando triumphs over the trained professional Charles, who has just severely injured his previous three opponents and has been charged by Orlando's brother to beat the young man soundly. Orlando's victory demonstrates his natural virtues and marks the occasion when he falls in love with Rosalind, whom he will meet later in her disguise as Ganymede. Contemporary responses to the sculpture show the public's familiarity with the play, which was presented in New York almost every year in the 1870s and early 1880s. Rogers' genre scenes and Civil War subjects told their own self-contained stories that could be deciphered by the careful observer. In this case, however, Rogers depicted a moment taken from a much larger narrative. Late-nineteenth-century Americans were far more familiar with the works of Shakespeare than we are today, and though Rogers' catalogues always provided elaborate explanations so viewers could situate the scene in the context of the play, he assumed their familiarity with the larger story line.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vol. 4, New York Historical Society. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 80. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.90-1. Baker, Charles E., "John Rogers As He Depicted American Literature," American Collector, Vol. 13, No. 10, pp. 10-1, 16. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 109, 247-8, 295, 304. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 180-1.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1881
eMuseum Object ID: 
56
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Politics

Classification: 
Date: 
September 1888
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 18 x 17 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. ( 45.7 x 44.4 x 34.3 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.639
Marks: 
signed: proper left top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/14 W 12 ST" inscribed: top proper left side of base: "PATENTED. NOV. 18.TH 1888" inscribed: front of base: "POLITICS"
Gallery Label: 
Rogers earned his early fame in the 1860s focusing on Civil War subjects. He did not take up current issues until decades later, when toward the end of his career he addressed recent events once again with this work, Politics. The group was released in fall of 1888 during a hotly contested presidential election campaign, as the incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland battled the Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison. Their principal point of contention was the tariff on foreign goods coming into the United States, intended to protect domestic industry. Cleveland considered the tariff inherently unjust and advocated reducing it, while Harrison opposed a reduction. The November 6 election proved remarkably close: Cleveland won the popular vote, but Harrison won the electoral vote, giving him the victory. Rogers' composition reflects the passionate discussions that would have surrounded an evenly divided campaign. However, in contrast to his earlier Civil War groups, which treated racial and social questions with great seriousness, here he took a humorous approach, perhaps in hopes of relieving some of the tensions of the moment and offering a gently mocking critique of political passions that went so far as to divide comrades. In his composition, two men flank a table set for a friendly evening; crackers and wineglasses are set out, and the open drawer below reveals an abundance of decanters that would have amply served for a long and companionable conversation. However, the disarray of the table, with crackers scattered about and a wineglass tipped over, suggests that the discussion has grown adversarial. The two men clearly show their agitation, and Rogers' use of individual eccentricities, exaggerated expressions, and small comic passages lends an almost vaudevillian air to the scene; these variety shows in their early polite, family-friendly form had begun in New York in the early 1880s. The man on the left has his foot wrapped up, indicating that he has gout, a common ailment of the period. In his excitement he grips the arm of his chair tightly and shoots a fiery gaze at his opponent; his flamelike hair stands on end, as if echoing his ire. Across from him, the other man clasps a decanter and in his careless anger is about to tip over his companion's wineglass. He grasps his umbrella as if he has just pounded it on the floor to emphasize his point, not realizing that he has punctured his hat. His hair swirls around his head as if it is unsettled by the maelstrom of his emotional state. Between them stands the straight man or, rather, woman in the scene, who smiles gently as she places her hand over one man's mouth and her fan before the face of the other to cool their tempers. Rogers left no indication of his own political leanings with regard to the election. In the interest of reaching a broad audience, he employed his genius for combining the general and the specific, bringing the event to mind but allowing the viewer to exercise his or her own point of view. Contemporary writers were quick to recognize Rogers' commentary on the election and extend it with their own narratives; one wrote of the group's "special fitness at a time when the respective merits of the rival presidential candidates are apt to lead hot blooded partisans of each into fiery arguments, and endanger the country's safety by latter day deluges in the shape of floods of (campaign) eloquence." The New Orleans Daily Picayune guessed from the clothing and erect posture of the man on the left that he was of a military background and that his adversary was a lawyer, doctor, or merchant, concluding that they were discussing the tariff. A New Hampshire commentator agreed that the gouty man and the "bloated bond holder" were likewise debating the tariff. Rogers' attempt to reengage with the flow of the day's events was a moderate success, but it marks a moment of decline. After more than a quarter century of national popularity, his work was losing its appeal. In 1888, the year that he produced Politics, he closed his lavish showroom on Union Square in New York and reduced prices on a number of his groups, suggesting that sales were down. Politics is the last work that he patented, indicating that he was no longer concerned about imitators trying to exploit his designs. The artist formally retired five years later.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, New York Historical Society. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Oct. 19, 1888, p. 6. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.96-7. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 155, 260, 294, 296. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 206-7.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1888
eMuseum Object ID: 
55
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Declaration of Independence

Classification: 
Medium: 
Possibly wood
Dimensions: 
Overall: 27 x 37 x 14 in. ( 68.6 x 94 x 35.6 cm )
Description: 
Figures carved in the round in groups and set in a room from a painting by Trumbull
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. M. H. Greenebaum
Object Number: 
1947.23
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
0
eMuseum Object ID: 
54
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Rooster

Classification: 
Date: 
1940
Medium: 
Dark green patinated bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 14 3/8 x 6 x 11 in. ( 36.5 x 15.2 x 27.9 cm )
Description: 
Animal figure
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mr. James Hazen Hyde
Object Number: 
1947.502
Marks: 
signed: on back of base: "KATHERINE W. LANE" inscribed: back of base: [copyright mark] 1940"
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1940
eMuseum Object ID: 
53
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Uncle Ned's School

Classification: 
Date: 
December 1866
Medium: 
Bronze with pine block and threaded bolt
Dimensions: 
Overall: 19 3/4 x 14 x 9 in. ( 50.2 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.656
Marks: 
signed: proper right front of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: front of base: "UNCLE NED'S SCHOOL" inscribed: back of base: "PATENTED/JULY 3rd, 1866"
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. In the 1860s Rogers' works addressed key social issues, and with Uncle Ned's School he took on the difficult question of freed slaves education and their future opportunities as new United States citizens. In the years after the Civil War, former slaves organized many new schools that ranged from brand-new structures to improvised classrooms in cellars or old sheds. Here Rogers showed one such informal school in his only group made up entirely of African Americans. The elderly cobbler Uncle Ned pauses in his work to assist one of his students with a question about the book that she points out to him as he leans on a ramshackle cabinet. At his feet a young boy with a tattered book open on his lap mischievously tickles the cobbler's foot with a feather. Though the girl is respectably dressed, the man and boy wear ragged, patched clothing, and all are barefoot. In depicting a cobbler and his charges without shoes of their own, Rogers pointed out their continued poverty, emphasizing the need for education to better their situation. Rogers knew that his audience would be familiar with the character of Uncle Ned from the popular 1848 Stephen Foster song of that name. In Foster's song the title character is a docile, obedient, aging slave who is blind. Rogers turned the caricature on its head by showing Uncle Ned perpetrating what would have been a crime in some Southern states when Foster's song was written: teaching a slave to read. However, the figure of the boy who has stopped studying to tease his teacher presents another stereotype that raises questions about Rogers' intentions. Does the boy represent harmless comic relief, or does he allude to concerns that African Americans lacked the determination and persistence to learn? The present-day scholar Kirk Savage has suggested that Rogers may have juxtaposed the boy and girl to pose a subtle question about which stereotype would prevail: the lazy scamp or the earnest pupil. Rogers' sales catalogues noted that the older man was "too much occupied to attend to" the boy's mischief, suggesting that Uncle Ned will not be deterred in his efforts. Uncle Ned's School was widely praised for its nuanced depiction of a momentous issue. Rogers himself considered it an important work; he exhibited the sculpture at the National Academy of Design, his first contribution in three years. A Philadelphia writer called it much better than any of his previous groups. Rogers presented a copy to the abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, who responded, "I am pleased with the complete rendering of the story, with a few means, and without exaggeration. Its simplicity is as agreeable as its errand is noble."
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, New York Historical Society. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Feb. 13, 1866, p. 4. "Fine Arts, National Academy of Design," The Albion, May 26, 1866, p. 249. "National Academy of Design," American Art Journal, New York, Vol. 5, June 14, 1866, p. 116. "Pictures at Earle's," The Daily Evening Bulletin Philadelphia, Sep. 7, 1866, p. 4. Tuckerman, Henry T., Book of the Artists, American Artist Life, Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists: Preceded by an Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of Art in America, New York: P. Putnam & Son, 1867, pp. 595-7. Rimmel, Eugene, Recollections of the Paris Exhibition of 1867, London: Chapman and Hall, 1867, pp. 265-6. Wells, Samuel R., ed., "John Rogers, the Sculptor," American Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, Vol. 49, no. 9, September 1869, pp. 329-30. Lossing, Benson J., "The Artist as Historian," The American Historical Record, Vol. 1, no. 6, June, 1872, pp. 16, 242-4. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 80 Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.72-3. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 216, 285, 295, 299, 304. Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968, pp. 357-366. Boime, Albert, The Art of Exclusion: Representing Blacks in the Nineteenth Century, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990, pp. 104-5, 188-99, 232, 238. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 100-1.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1866
eMuseum Object ID: 
52
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Rip Van Winkle At Home

Classification: 
Date: 
December 1871
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 18 x 10 x 8 in. ( 45.7 x 25.4 x 20.3 cm )
Description: 
Literary figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.651
Marks: 
signed: top front of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: back of wall: "PATENTED/MAR.14.1871." inscribed: front of base: "RIP VAN WINKLE/AT HOME"
Gallery Label: 
These bronzes served as the master models for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. Rogers' three Rip Van Winkle groups comprise his first formal series. The artist's long-standing interest in storytelling was already well known, and viewers enjoyed decoding the narratives implied in the meticulous detail of his groups. For this serial subject, Rogers expanded his notion of narrative beyond the use of accessories to create a more powerful sense of temporality with multiple groups. He chose a particularly appropriate theme, which centers on the passage of time. Washington Irving wrote "Rip Van Winkle" in 1819, and it quickly became one of his most popular tales. It tells about the years before the American Revolutionary War, when Rip Van Winkle lives in a village at the foot of New York's Catskill Mountains. An amiable man whose home and farm suffer from his lazy neglect, he is loved by everyone except his wife. One autumn day he escapes her nagging by wandering into the mountains. There he encounters strangely dressed men, rumored to be the ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew, who are playing ninepins. After drinking some of their liquor, he settles down under a shady tree and falls asleep. He wakes and returns to his village, where he finds twenty years have passed. Late-nineteenth-century Americans were intimately familiar with Irving's story and its popularity owed in large part to its huge success as a stage play starring Joseph Jefferson. One of the most acclaimed actors of his time, Jefferson first starred in a production of Rip Van Winkle in 1859. By 1883 he estimated that he had played the part on no fewer than 4,500 occasions. Rogers saw Jefferson play the role in 1869, and he asked Jefferson to sit for the sculptures. The artist's talents as a portraitist served him well; the series enjoyed acclaim and popularity, remaining in Rogers' catalogue until the end of his career. Praises for the series connected it closely with Jefferson and his fame as Rip, making the groups as much icons of popular culture as of literary culture. One critic of Rogers' sculptures spent nearly as much ink on Jefferson as on the works themselves, claiming, "Jefferson has made the story of Rip more truly his own than it even is Washington Irving's." In taking on a beloved American story that had been turned into a wildly successful play, Rogers translated Irving's story from book to stage to plaster, and he carefully negotiated the layers of meaning that accumulated with each of these transitions. He made judicious choices about which aspects he would retain and which he would eliminate, taking full advantage of the unique capabilities of his medium. Contemporary critics were well aware of these fine distinctions, and more than one noted that the settings Rogers chose were taken not from the play, but from Irving's story. The New York Evening Post writer commented that in spite of Rip's "'Jeffersonian' cast," the surroundings closely followed Irving's text. A Chicago critic pointed out that "although [Rogers] faithfully portrays the great actor in the person of Rip, he does not copy any situation occurring in the drama." At the same time, Rip was "attired in a dress literally copied from what Jefferson wears in the early scenes of the play, every fold and wrinkle and tatter of which is familiar to us all." Rogers' union of literature, theater, and sculpture was considered particularly nuanced and successful: one writer noted, "If there is less of the plain A.B.C. in these groups than Mr. Rogers has usually given to the world, there is a delicate, half-hidden subtlety of expressions and touch that are nonetheless readily comprehended by those who can read character by facial expression." Rogers introduced each composition in his sales catalogues with a quote from Irving's tale explaining the action, and Jefferson's character and likeness are naturally the focus of attention. However, the space Rogers created was not a theatrical box with one frontal vantage point (as in his later Shakespearean groups). Rather, Rogers exploited the sculptural medium to show each incident in the round, from all sides. His spiraling compositions create a vertiginous sense of disorientation that is perfectly in keeping with the mood of Irving's tale. In this first group, Rip comfortably leans against a fence rail, an affable playmate for a little girl at his shoulder wearing his hat and pulling his hair and a boy trying to raise and aim his gun. Rogers' sales catalogues quoted from Irving's narrative: "The children of the village would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians." Their mischief prefigures the trickery of the gnome who offers Rip a draft in the next group in the series, Rip Van Winkle on the Mountain.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. The Evening Post, New York, Dec. 19, 1870, p.1. Watson's Art Journal, New York. April 1, 1971, p. 260. The Evening Post, New York, May 23, 1871, p. 1. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, June 1, 1871, p. 1. Watson's Art Journal, New York. Vol..XV, No. 6, June 10, 1871, p. 68 (reprint of Daily Evening Transcript item). Newark Daily Advertiser, Newark, N.J., Sep. 30, 1871, p. 1. The Aldine, New York, Vol. IV, No. 11, November, 1871, p. 181. Partridge, William Ordway, "John Rogers, The Peoples Sculptor," The New England Magazine, Feb., 1896, Vol. XIII, No. 6, pp. 705-21. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.68-9. Baker, Charles E., "John Rogers As He Depicted American Literature," American Collector, Vol. 13, No. 10, pp. 10-1, 16. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 109, 111, 144, 166-7, 226-7, 294, 301. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1979, pp. 756-768. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 126-7.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1871
eMuseum Object ID: 
51
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

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