Back when I taught a class on contemporary art a question often arose: Why don’t they put up meaningful statues that people understand instead of those obscure abstract sculptures?
Then I’d ask: How many of you know that sculpture in the park in front of the Portland Art Museum—the guy on the horse?
Most hands would rise.
Then I’d ask: Who is it?
I’d say that over the years less than 5% of my students could answer.
So much for “meaningful.”
But I was intrigued by the work, and I wrote a piece about it for Encore magazine (before I began teaching), a magazine that was published for the Portland Opera and the Oregon Symphony. It turns out that the sculptor, Alexander Phimister Proctor, was a pretty interesting fellow, and the unveiling of the work in 1922 was a really big deal.
On July 16, 2000 The Oregonian published a reprint of page one from Armistice Day 1922 with the statue dedication noted in the right hand column.
Proctor’s autobiography is very entertaining and there are a couple copies at Powell’s (and lots at abebooks.com).
You can see other works by Proctor at the Portland Art Museum:
Indian on Horseback , 1898, bronze, Gift of Mrs. A.L. Mills, Mrs. T.H. Bartlett, Henrietta E. Failing, Mary Forbush Failing, Mrs. H.C. Cabell, Charles Francis Adams, John C. Ainsworth, William D. Cartwright, and T.B. Wilcox, © artist or other rights holder, 11.2
Lions , 1911, bronze, Bequest of Winslow B. Ayer, © artist or other rights holder, 35.182
Or if you are at the University of Oregon you can see:
The Pioneer, which predates The Rough Rider. From the U of O web site: This sculpture, located across from Johnson Hall, was dedicated with great ceremony in May 1919. The sculptor, Alexander Phimister Proctor (1862-1950), used a trapper from near Burns, Oregon, as his model. The 1918 bronze statue, mounted on a base of McKenzie River basalt, was a gift of Joseph N. Teal, Portland attorney.
The Pioneer Mother, 1930—according to the U of O web site, but from Sculptor in Buckskin…
And, there are works by Proctor in this new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:
From the Met’s web site:
Buckaroo, 1914 (cast 1915 or after). Denver Art Museum, Funds from William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection by exchange (2005.12)
Stalking Panther, 1891–93 (cast ca. 1905–13). Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Bequest of James Parmelee (41.79)
And, if you are in New York and see the William Tecumseh Sherman monument in Central Park note that the whole is by Augustus St. Gaudens, but Proctor did the horse: