Scale-model for Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial
Walker Hancock (American, 1901–1998)
Overall: 365.9 cm (12 ft.) Block (Base): 89.5 x 61.6 x 54.3 cm (35 1/4 x 24 1/4 x 21 3/8 in.) Block (top of base - with legs): 81.9 x 41.3 x 36.8 cm (32 1/4 x 16 1/4 x 14 1/2 in.) Block (Torso of angel and man): 103.5 x 38.1 cm (40 3/4 x 15 in.)
Medium or Technique
Painted plaster with mixed media armature
Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries (20th-century Art: People) (Gallery 328)
Levitating, robed angel with wings arched over head, holds deceased, bare-chested male soldier in arms. Figures rise from rectangular base. The sculpture comes apart in five sections.
Walker Hancock, dean of American figurative sculptors in the twentieth century, is perhaps best known for his Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial. Weighing ten-and-a-half tons and standing about forty feet tall, this bronze sculpture of an enormous winged angel lifting a dying soldier was commissioned for the grand concourse of Thirtieth Street station in Philadelphia. Dedicated in 1952, it commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by more than thirteen hundred men and women of the Pennsylvania Railroad during World War II.
As Hancock explained, “the tall vertical form” of the monument was dictated by the architecture of the cavernous space it was designed to occupy; the sculpture blends harmoniously with the fluted columns and windows of the station. Avoiding sentimentality, Hancock fashioned the figures in his own manner of modern classical realism, featuring broad surfaces and simple yet powerful forms. The plaster model of the memorial seen here, about one-third the size of the completed work, remained in the artist’s studio on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, until his death.
Born in Saint Louis, Hancock studied at the American Academy in Rome in the 1920s and spent much of his professional life as a professor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he had been a student of the famous portrait sculptor Charles Grafly. During his long career, he created a large body of architectural sculpture, war memorials, religious works, portraits (including many figure studies of presidents), and medals. While he achieved widespread acclaim as a key figure in modern realism, Hancock was known as much for his strength of character and noble spirit as for the high quality of his work.
This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.
From the artist's estate.
Bequest of Walker Hancock
Reproduced with permission.