Sculpture in the City
A cityscape-focused initiative inviting you to experience the great art and architecture in Hartford, on the grounds of the Wadsworth and beyond to partnering institutions and cultural sites throughout the city. Visit the Wadsworth to engage with the seven works of outdoor sculpture on and near the museum grounds, and the architecture of our five connected buildings. Share your #sculptureinthecity experience on social media.
Sign up for an outdoor art talk to learn more from Wadsworth curators, conservators, and education staff. Self-guided walking tours and offerings produced by our neighbors will be gathered below to tell stories about our city, the art found in its public spaces, and the architecture of its buildings. We welcome submissions of historical, architectural, and public art information to be added to this page’s developing resource list. Send us an email with a link to your recommended content.
Revolutionary Hartford – Courtesy of Connecticut’s Old State House
Chasing the Charter Oak – Courtesy of Brenda Miller, Hartford Public Library
Outdoor Art Talks at the Wadsworth
Availability is limited and advance registration is required.
The Facades of the Wadsworth Atheneum – Wednesday, September 9; noon
Conserving Bronze – Saturday, September 19; noon
Outdoor Sculpture at the Wadsworth
William Turnbull, Large Horse, 1990
William Turnbull’s sculptures of horses feel both familiar and alien. Here, the mask-like form of the head narrows like a horse’s muzzle, but the eyes appear at the center of the face, rather than the sides. From a side view, the sculpture also resembles an adze—a tool similar to an axe whose blade is perpendicular rather than parallel to the handle. Look for similarities between the horse’s head and the blade of an adze, and the arcing neck to its handle. In Turnbull’s words, when depicting horses, “what interests me…is how the part can represent the whole. I mean that when you see the horse’s head you feel the whole horsee…And when I make horses’ heads…it’s always been with the idea of having a metaphoric quality.”
For Turnbull, the adze was an everyday object that had similar qualities to a horse’s head. Take a closer look at an object in your daily life. Do you see something new in it? #sculptureinthecity to show us your discovery.
Click the thumbnails and video below to view a portrait of the artist, works on paper on loan from the Turnbull Studio, and a dance performance by the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) Ensemble.
Tony Smith, Amaryllis, 1965
Amaryllis is made up of a series of triangular pyramids known as tetrahedrons. When you visit the museum, take a walk around it and notice how the form continually shifts. Is there an angle from which it reminds you of a budding amaryllis flower stalk? This sculpture first appeared at the museum as a full-size plywood model in Tony Smith: Two Exhibitions of Sculpture, the artist’s first solo exhibition. In 1967, a finished version of the sculpture, fabricated in steel and painted black, was purchased for the collection.
Try to mimic the shifting angles of the sculpture with your arms. Post a photo of your moves to #sculptureinthecity.
Click the images and videos below to see views of Amaryllis over time and a dance performance by the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) Ensemble.
Courtesy of Daniel Kuetemeyer, 2020
Conrad Shawcross, Monolith (Optic), 2016
Monolith (Optic) is based on The Optic Cloak, a 160-foot-high sculptural installation at the Greenwich Peninsula’s Energy Centre in London. The Optic Cloak was designed to conceal the centre’s towering flue system that provides low-carbon energy to 15,000 homes. Both sculptures feature a rolling skin of perforated aluminum triangles that capture and refract light, creating a moiré, or rippled effect. Shawcross was inspired by World War II dazzle ship technology, which used graphic geometric patterns to disorient enemy vessels.
Light plays across the surface of the sculpture differently throughout the day. Stop by again to see it anew. Share photos of your visits with #sculptureinthecity.
Click the images and video below to see views of The Optic Cloak, Monolith (Optic), the artist discussing his work, and a dance performance by the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) Ensemble.
Courtesy of Daniel Kuetemeyer, 2020
Enoch Woods, Nathan Hale, 1889
Installed in 1893, Enoch Woods’s Nathan Hale was the first work of art to be placed on the Wadsworth’s grounds. Hale is recognized as Connecticut’s state hero and a national patriotic symbol for his role as a spy, reporting on the movements of British troops, during the Revolutionary War. He was captured and executed on September 22, 1776. A witness to his execution purportedly heard him proclaim, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Created for a state-run sculpture competition, this memorial of the twenty-one-year-old Hale was made by Hartford local, Enoch Woods.
Who is one of your heroes? How would you portray your hero in sculpture to celebrate them? Share your vision at #sculptureinthecity.
Restoration Scheduled for Summer 2020
Atmospheric pollution has taken its toll on this sculpture’s original surface and its granite base after spending nearly 130 years outdoors. The green and black streaks are evidence of corrosion on the metal and discoloration on the stone. The sculpture has also shifted slightly toward one side of the base. In the coming months, Nathan Hale will undergo a major conservation treatment and restoration. A clear coating will be applied to the sculpture to protect the surface, and the statue will be realigned. Francis Miller, directing conservator of Conserve ART will lead the conservation treatment, in collaboration with the Wadsworth’s objects conservator. Major support for this restoration project was provided by a grant from the Avangrid Foundation. The grant will also realize a plan to illuminate the restored sculpture. Additional support provided by a grant from the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut.
Click the images below to see views of Nathan Hale over time.
Ben Johnson, After Jean-Antoine Houdon, Memorial Commemorating General George Washington’s visits to Hartford and Wethersfield, 1932
Between 1775 and 1789, General George Washington visited Hartford multiple times, including meetings with Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth on this very spot, where the Wadsworth family home once stood. Washington noticed how well-supplied the Connecticut soldiers were and assigned Wadsworth, a wealthy businessman and political leader, the position of Deputy Commissary of Provisions for the Continental Army. The memorial’s lengthy inscription details the key visits during which military strategies and plans to defeat the British troops were discussed. Jeremiah’s only son, Daniel, founded the Wadsworth Atheneum in 1842.
Click the images below to see detail views of the memorial and it’s reinstallation in 2012 after being restored.
Melvin Edwards, Across the Limpopo, c. 1974
Since his first trip to Africa in 1970, Edwards has created abstract sculptures that combine his interests in African and American literature and culture. Across the Limpopo refers to the journey of South African poet and anti-apartheid activist Keorapetse “Willie” Kgositsile (1938‒2018) who was exiled from his native country in 1961. He traversed the Limpopo River along the northeast border of South Africa into Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and further to New York. Edwards’s bright orange, curvilinear sculpture conveys this story through its form. The ladder element precariously crossing the top of the sculpture serves as an imaginary bridge to guide the artist’s friend to a safer shore.
As you walk around downtown Hartford, think about where else you would place a sculpture. What would it look like? Tell us at #sculptureinthecity
Alexander Calder, Stegosaurus, 1972
Since its installation in 1973, Stegosaurus has become an iconic symbol of Downtown Hartford. As you walk under and around it, notice how the arches intersect and the triangles create overlapping patterns. Together these abstract shapes suggest the form of a stegosaurus with its sloping, spiked back. Calder was commissioned to design the sculpture by the Ella Burr McManus Trust (established in 1923) in memory of Alfred E. Burr, Ella’s father and founder of the Hartford Times.
It’s a…? Create your own abstract sculpture or drawing based on just a few key features of an animal. Post photos of your artwork to #sculptureinthecity
Click the images below to see views of Stegosaurus over time.
Carl Andre, Stone Field Sculpture, 1977
This sculpture is composed of thirty-six stones native to Connecticut. Arranged in eight parallel rows on a triangular plot, the boulders decrease in number while increasing in size so that the largest boulder is at the bottom of the slope. The configuration echoes the rhythm of the headstones in the neighboring Ancient Burying Ground behind Center Church. It was the winning entry in the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s 1975 call for a public art piece to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary.
Walk through the sculpture a few different ways—up, down, diagonally. How does it change your view? #sculptureinthecity
Click the images and video below to see views of the development and installation of Stone Field Sculpture, and a dance performance by the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) Ensemble.
In 1841, Hartford native Daniel Wadsworth (1771‒1848) announced plans to open a public art gallery. With help from friends and donors, he expanded his vision and founded an athenaeum, a cultural center dedicated to art, literature, and history. Opened in 1844, the Wadsworth building is constructed of Connecticut granite from plans started by Hartford-based architect Henry Austin and finalized by Ithiel Towne and Alexander Jackson Davis. The castle design reflects the popular Gothic Revival style, which looked back to medieval architecture.
A few blocks away at 955 Main Street you can see another Gothic Revival building designed by Ithiel Towne, Christ Church Cathedral.
Colt Memorial Facade
In 1905, businessperson and philanthropist Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt (1826–1905) bequeathed over 1,000 objects to the Wadsworth, including paintings, decorative works, and the firearms collection of her late husband Samuel Colt, along with funds to expand the museum to house them. Architect Benjamin Wistar Morris was chosen to design both the Colt and the adjacent Morgan Memorial building. Opened to the public in 1910, the Colt Memorial visually connects the Wadsworth and Morgan buildings with its dark gray granite facade and marble moldings.
Look across the Wadsworth, Colt, and Morgan buildings (use the image at the top of this page to see all three at once). If you were asked to design an addition to them, what would it look like? Post your design to #sculptureinthecity.
Morgan Memorial Building
When this addition opened in 1915, it more than doubled the Wadsworth’s square footage. Hartford-born financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837‒1913) provided the funds to erect the Beaux Arts-style structure as a tribute to his father Junius Spencer Morgan (1813–1890). Architect Benjamin Wistar Morris designed it and the adjoining Colt Memorial at the same time. The rough granite facade of the Colt Memorial contrasts with the smooth marble of the Morgan Memorial while the marble moldings and carvings unite the two buildings.
Carved faces peer at you from each side of the Morgan Memorial. Find your favorite in the image gallery below and take a selfie making the same expression. Post your photos to #sculptureinthecity
Avery Memorial Building
The opening of the Avery Memorial building in 1934 reflected a transformative moment in American architectural history , reflective of modernizing trends in art and architecture. Funded by the art dealer, collector, and philanthropist Samuel Putnam Avery III (1847–1920), the Art Deco exterior featured clean lines and minimal ornamentation. Inside, the austere, white-walled galleries marked the nation’s first museum interior designed in the International Style. The architect Robert O’Connor received the New York Architectural League’s gold medal for this building.
Painting, Music, Drama, and Sculpture—look for profiles on the building that represent these four arts. Strike a pose that expresses one of the arts and post to #sculptureinthecity.
The Goodwin building opened in 1969 as part of the largest building program in the museum’s modern history. Named for conservationist James Lippincott Goodwin (1881‒1967), it was one element in a plan to maximize art gallery space. The interiors of the museum’s earliest buildings, the Wadsworth and Colt Memorial, were also completely reimagined. Designed by the Hartford architectural firm, Huntington, Darbee & Dollard, it was built in a neo-Brutalist style that showcases the bare concrete and geometric structure of the building.