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Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan:   A Historical Guide
By Dianne Durante
Illustrated. 302 pp.
New York University Press. US$65.00
ISBN: 0814719864

Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide provides readers with far more than just a look at the New York monuments—such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty—that everyone thinks of first. Instead, it is a thorough, geographically organized look at many important and interesting monuments that most people either overlook or see without appreciating their meaning or history. As author Dianne L. Durante explains, “You react more strongly when you know something about a sculpture than when you’re not-so-blissfully ignorant. You notice more details, see their significance, and realize how the work relates to your own values. With that knowledge, the work inevitably has greater emotional impact.”

There is a monument to Gertrude Stein, for example, a bronze statue located in Bryant Park on Avenue of the Americas, and a statue depicting Simon Bolivar astride a horse at Central Park West. At 34 feet tall, the Bolivar monument “is one of the city’s towering sculptures in size.” Bolivar is often hailed as the “Liberator of South America,” and “South America’s George Washington” even though the two men led very different lives. William Shakespeare can be found on the Literary Walk in Central Park, and the Marquis at Lafayette waits for admirers at Union Square, near East 16th Street.

Lesser-known figures are also represented in Outdoor Monuments, such as Daniel Butterfield, not a particularly worthy subject because his military blunders in the Civil War resulted in thousands of casualties. He also helped Jay Gould corner the gold market after the war, probably illegally. However, his statue was cast by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, an experience that provided Borglum with expertise he would later use crafting American heroes out of a mountain.

John Quincy Adams Ward was a prominent New York sculptor who created statues of Shakespeare, George Washington, William Earl Dodge, Horace Greeley, Alexander Lyman Holley, and Roscoe Conkling. His fans will enjoy comparing his works to one another as they travel throughout Manhattan. Similarly worthy as a body of work are monuments by Anna Hyatt Huntington that include Jose Marti, El Cid Campeador, and Joan of Arc.

Author Dianne L. Durante has also written Forgotten Delights: The Producers, which focuses on a different selection of New York’s outdoor sculpture. Clearly passionate about her work, she balances her discussions of both artist and subject so that readers will want to see whether her assessment of the work agrees with their own—now that Durante has provided a starting point. Outdoor Monuments will be an invaluable guide to sculpture aficionados as well as those seeking a more in-depth understanding of New York art.

Elizabeth Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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