Boston Art Commission

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Charles Sumner

Artist:

Thomas Ball

Location:

Boston Public Garden, on Boylston St. Mall  

Location

Boston Public Garden, on Boylston St. Mall
United States
42° 21' 8.694" N, 71° 4' 11.388" W

Neighborhood:

Downtown

Type:

Sculpture

Year:

1878

Medium:

Bronze and Granite

Collection:

City of Boston

Funders:

Unknown

Description:

An outspoken abolitionist, this Massachusetts senator was once attacked by a rival politician on the Senate floor. In the years preceding the Civil War, Charles Sumner opposed making compromises with the South; after the war, he advocated full voting rights for Southern blacks. He also promoted penal reform and worked alongside Massachusetts politician Horace Mann to improve the public school system.

Shortly after Sumner’s death in 1874, a competition was held to design a monument to him. Boston artist Anne Whitney initially beat out a roster of well-known competitors, including Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Martin Milmore, who are both featured on this Art Walk. Nevertheless, the judges disqualified Whitney when they discovered she was a woman. Claiming that it would be improper for a woman to sculpt a man’s legs, they chose Thomas Ball’s design instead—an ironic story behind an artwork intended to honor Sumner’s fight for equality. Twenty-seven years later, Whitney cast her original design in bronze, with a few minor alterations. It is now located in Harvard Square.

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