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Thomas Crawford (sculptor)

Thomas Crawford, 1846
Thomas Gibson Crawford

(March 22, 1814 – October 10, 1857) was an American sculptor who is best known for his numerous artistic contributions to the United States Capitol.


  • Life 1
    • Personal life and death 1.1
  • Works 2
  • References 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • External links 5


David Triumphant, marble and bronze, 1848, in the National Gallery of Art
Washington Monument, Richmond, Virginia

He was born in New York City of Irish parentage, the son of Aaron and Mary (née Gibson) Crawford.[1] In his early years, he was at school with Page, the artist. His proficiency in his studies was hindered by the exuberance of his fancy, which took form in drawings and carvings. His love of art led him, at the age of 19, to enter the New York City studios of John Frazee and Robert Eberhard Launitz,[2] artists and artificers in marble. In 1834 he went abroad for the promotion of artistic studies, and in the summer of 1835 took up his residence in Rome, for life as it proved. Launitz had provided Crawford with a letter of introduction to Bertel Thorwaldsen and upon arriving in Rome, Crawford became a pupil of Thorwaldsen.[3] Under his guidance, Crawford devoted himself to the study both of the antique and of living models.[4]

His first ideal work was a group of Orpheus and Cerberus, executed in 1839, and purchased, some years later, for the Boston Athenaeum, and now displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This was followed by a succession of groups, single figures, and bas-reliefs, whose rapid production bore witness to the fertility as well as the versatility of his genius. Among these are Adam and Eve and a bust of Josiah Quincy, in 1900 in the Boston Athenaeum; Hebe and Ganymede, presented to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts by C. C. Perkins, and a bronze statue of Beethoven, presented by the same gentleman to the Boston Music Hall, which now resides at the New England Conservatory; Babes in the Wood, in the Lenox Library; Mercury and Psyche; Flora, now in the gallery of the late Mrs. A. T. Stewart; an Indian girl; Dancing Jenny, modelled from his own daughter; and a statue of James Otis, which once adorned the chapel at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge. In 1838, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician.

Bust of Charles Brooks (1795-1872), pastor, 1843 Marble
Peri at the Gates of Paradise, by Thomas Crawford, modeled 1854, carved by 1859, Corcoran Gallery of Art

In 1849, while on a visit to this country, he received from the Munich foundry.[4]

Crawford's most important works after these were ordered by the federal government for the United States Capitol at Washington. First among these was a marble pediment bearing life-size figures symbolical of the progress of American civilization; next in order came a bronze figure Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace which surmounts the dome; and last of these, and of his life-work, was a bronze door on which are modelled various scenes in the public life of Washington. Prominent among Crawford's works was also his statue of an Indian chief, much admired by the English sculptor Gibson, who proposed that a bronze copy of it should be retained in Rome as a lasting monument.[4]

His major accomplishments include the figure above the dome of the United States Capitol entitled Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace, the Revolutionary War Door in the House wing, and the bronze doors and pediment statues for the Senate wing. He was only able to begin the bas-reliefs for the bronze doors, which were afterwards completed by W. H. Rinehart.

Personal life and death

In politics he was a liberal, in religion a Protestant, in character generous and kindly, and adverse to discords, professional or social.[4]

In 1844, he married to Louisa Cutler Ward, a sister of Julia Ward Howe, and by her had four children, including the writers Francis Marion Crawford and Mary Crawford Fraser.

Crawford began experiencing significant deterioration in his vision in 1856, which ended his career. He sought medical treatment in Paris, Rome, and London, and physicians discovered cancer of the eye and cancer of the brain. He died in London on October 10, 1857. His body was returned to the United States, and he was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.[5]



  1. ^ Gale 1964, p. 5.
  2. ^ Tolles, Thayer (2000). "Modeling a Reputation: The American Sculptor and New York City". In Voorsanger, Catherine Hoover; Howat, John K. Art and the Empire City, New York, 1825-1861. pp. 147–148.  
  3. ^ >Ro Gallery. 
  4. ^ a b c d Appletons' 1900.
  5. ^ Gale 2003, p. 51.


  • Gale, Robert L. (1964). Thomas Crawford: American Sculptor. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.  
  • Gale, Robert L. (2003). A Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.  
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the  

External links

  • Art and the empire city: New York, 1825-1861, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Crawford (see index)
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