Updated: June 13, 2011



These Study Guides on War and Art were originally prepared for a course entitled "Responses to War: An Intellectual and Cultural History" given in the Department of History at The University of Adelaide between 1989 and 1999.

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 The Memorial to Shaw and the Mass. 54th

Saint-Gaudens in his Studio



Albert Boime, The Art of Exclusion: Representing Blacks in the Nineteenth Century (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990). Chap. 6 "Emancipation and the Freed", pp. 153-219.

Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art. Volume IV. From the American Revolution to Woprld War I. Part 1. Slaves and Liberators (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1989).

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. - Shaw Memorial Project


(no material on this)

War and Art


A plan to erect a monument to RGS near Fort Wagner was put forward by survivors of the Fort Wagner battle and money raised by black soldiers and black residents of Beaufort, Sth Carolina. Did not go ahead becasue of objection by white residents. Bostonians planned equestrian statue in 1865 but St.-G not approached until 1882, very keen to do an equestrian statue. Given formal commission 1884.

African-American soldiers 2

Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art. Volume IV., p. 276

Celebrated sculptor Saint-Gaudens created bronze relief (begun 1884, bronze version 1897, completed 1901) shows Col. Robert Gould Shaw on horsback in centre with troops marching beside (behind) him in profile. Above Shaw's head floats an allegorial "Angel of Death" bearing Victory and Sleep (i.e. death). The contemporary art critic Taft described it as a distinctively American masterpiece and stresses the "unflinching" visage of the central white officer.

Quote Boime, pp. 204-5.

Figure above soldiers

But SG had strong anti-Jewish and racists views about "the darkies" and "niggers", whom he found hard to entice in his studios for sittings even when he paid them. Another interpretation (Boime) sees an animal (doglike) trust in the demeanour of the black soldiers, marching in step with Shaw's horse (both at his command) and on its level. Whereas the Memorial names RGS, none of the black soldiers were named until monument rededicated in 1982 and a plaque with the names of the 62 blacks killed at Fort Wagner was added.


The black veteran and historian George Washington Williams, A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion (1888) suggested a memorial to the fallen black soldiers which was never built.

African-American soldiers 1

His description quoted by Boime, The Art of Exclusion, p. 215.


 The Memorial to Shaw and the Massachussetts54th (details):

Shaw on Horseback