Saturday, December 1, 2012

Charles Calverley

Anyone who has strolled or driven through Washington Park has seen the handsome Robert Burns monument with its bronze statue of the Scottish poet and four plaques depicting scenes from his works.   The Burns memorial, one of the Park's landmarks, was created by Albany sculptor Charles Calverley.

Calverley was born in Albany in 1833 and, at the age of thirteen, he apprenticed to local stonecutter John Dixon.  Dixon's workshop produced a number of monuments for the Albany Rural Cemetery, including that of the Strain family and local publisher Jesse Buel, as well as architectural elements and marble mantels.

In 1853, Calverley's work in Dixon's shop caught the attention of Erastus Dow Palmer.  After seeing a rose carved by the twenty-year old, the sculptor bought out the remainder of Caverley's apprenticeship and brought him to work in his own studio.

In 1868, Calverley opened his own studio in Manhattan at Fourth Avenue and 25th Street.  Working in both marble and bronze, he created numerous busts, bas-reliefs, and medallions, with the occasional full-length statue or cameo.  He did several commissions for monuments in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, including busts Horace Greeley and Elias Howe.  Another well-known Calverley piece in Green-Wood is Precious Georgie, a touching marble portrait of a four-year old boy who died of scarlet fever.

In Albany Rural Cemetery, he also created Meditation, the exquisite bronze statue on the monument of Doctor Jephta Bouleware (see photo below) and a beautiful portrait medallion of Ann Elizabeth Brown Wiles.

Calverley died in 1914.  His family plot on the South Ridge contains four examples of his work.  The main monument is topped by a bronze bust of the sculptor (a self-portrait) and the bas-relief on the front is a likeness of his wife, Susan Hand.  Behind the main monument, a second granite monument contains medallions of the sculptor's mother and his brother, John, who died of illness while serving in the Civil War.

Below:  Detail of the Boulware monument:

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