Walt Whitman – Philadelphia Museum of Art - Philadelphia, PA
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 39° 57.973 W 075° 10.888
18S E 484502 N 4424023
Here are the elongated figures of Jacob Epstein’s Social Consciousness which suggest sympathy, tenderness & sorrow for human suffering. This complicated piece is graced with a quote from a locally famous poet, Walt Whitman.
Waymark Code: WMDV6W
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 02/25/2012
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member TheBeanTeam
Views: 4

Several of the sculptures located out side the Philadelphia Museum of art have attributable quotations incised on their bases. The center of this polished, gray base has a quotation from a Walt Whitman poem called America which can be fund in his anthology, Leaves of Grass, a poetry collection by our great poet Whitman. He spent his entire lifetime editing and reediting that poetry collection of his. The mini-stanza reads:

Social Consciousness

A grand sane towering seated Mother
Chair'd in the adamant of Time

The entire poem reads as follows:

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair'd in the adamant of Time.

The theme of the poem and the social commentary of the sculpture, match up perfectly, offering identical social commentaries on America, one through verse, the other, bronze. I cannot think of a better quote to reflect the intent of the art.

This sculpture is a lot to take in, not only because it is expansive but because there are several components, each of a person, figurative or representative of one of life's conditions. The three parts of Social Consciousness are (left to right) The Great Consoler (or Compassion), The Eternal Mother (or Destiny) and Succor (or Death). My children and I found ourselves walking around this huge bronze beast, discovering an inscription here and a subtle nuance there. We discovered it at the west end entrance to the Philadelphia Art Museum, off to the left, after ascending the stairs.

I thought the various sculptures of the figurative people were distorted and weird looking, but still served their symbolic mission. The kids loved it and how unusual the people looked. The entire thing is made of bronze with a very smooth granite base. The piece was sculpted in 1954 and dedicated in 1957, sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) a somewhat controversial artist, with Morris Singer Foundry doing the grunt work. Its dimensions (according to SIRIS) is: Sculpture: approx. 138 x 198 x 78 in.; Base: approx. 27 1/2 x 208 x 86 1/2 in. The front, upper right of the granite base has the artist's name, Jacob Epstein, with the word sculptor underneath.

The right side reads: Ellen Phillips Samuel Foundation, Erected 1957. The rear bears the familiar Fairmount Park Art Association circular, bronze emblem. This medallion is found on almost every statue installed in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is also another worn, bronze medallion installed by the founder on the rear of the base. From what I could read the words going around in a circle are The Morris Singer Co Ltd London SW 8. The middle has the word founders with a couple of unintelligible designs.

SIRIS describes the sculpture as five figures draped with cloths. The center figure is seated with her arms open. On her proper left is a woman holding a dying figure as he clings to her shoulders. The other side is a standing figure holding a limp seated figure.

The sculpture was commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association which wanted for the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial a sculpture expressing the American ideal of botherhood. However, Epstein's emblematic sculpture was so expressive, that the Fairmount Park Art Association realized the planned site in the Samuel Memorial could not accomodated it, so a new site at the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art was chosen in 1955.

I recommend visiting this statue and the scores of other works of art at the museum. I parked for free along the street rather than pay the unnecessary $12. There is no charge to walk around on the outside of the museum. The first Sunday of every month is pay what you want day so that would be the time to visit inside if you are watching your Washingtons and Lincolns. The statue is also featured as an official tourist attraction on the Visit Philly website which can be found HERE

Philadelphia Museum of Art 26th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway West entrance Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130

Website: [Web Link]

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