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Mahoney, John H. General George Rogers Clark, 1898


John H. Mahoney was born in Usk, Wales, and immigrated with his parents to Jennings County, Indiana, in 1858. In 1868 they moved to Indianapolis, where Mahoney apprenticed in the tombstone business. In 1878 he entered the English Academy in Rome; he returned to the United States, where he was commissioned to do various statues and monuments in Philadelphia, Plymouth (Massachusetts), Milwaukee, various Midwest locations, and the cemetery at Gettysburg. In 1889 he returned to Indianapolis and opened his first studio. When the state Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument was built, he was commissioned to make statues for it of Gen. George Rogers Clark, President William Henry Harrison, and Gov. James Whitcomb.

  • General George Rogers Clark, 1898
  • 14′ tall
  • Indiana War Memorials Commission
  • Keywords: sculpture, casts, bronze
  • Subjects: people, men, military, hats, weapons, hands, uniforms

This statue is part of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the Circle in Indianapolis. The base bears the inscription, “Conqueror of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio from the British 1778–9.” As Mary Quick Burnet wrote in Art and Artists of Indiana, Mahoney’s “conception of George Rogers Clark was not that of a statesman or a man trained in the schools, but as a leader of the frontier, bringing his men victoriously through the difficulties of the wilderness. This is his most successful work.”

The arm and sword match in rhythm like the curve of the scabbard and knee. This piece was cast out of molten metal that was poured into a form. When the metal was cool the form was broken and the cast parts inside were removed. The artist then smoothed the pieces and soldered them together. Clark was selected to adorn the monument because of his importance to Indiana history. The British Fort Sackville at Vincennes surrendered to Clark, assuring that the territory— which became known as the Northwest Territory—became American in the peace treaty negotiations.

As it turned out this was the high point of Clark’s life. He and his men were granted the land around Clarksville for their war deeds, but the rest of Clark’s life was spent in bitterness and poverty because he was unable to recover from the government money he had paid out in the war effort.

Some Points To Consider

  • Discuss with students the importance of Indiana’s recognition of leaders and heroes through memorial art. Ask students: What is a commission and what must an artist do to be selected for one? (Art 4.1.2)
  • Ask students to describe the pose of this statue. How has Mahoney created movement or action? Ask students if they think the pose depicts leadership. Why or why not? (Art 4.3.1)
  • Explain to students the concept of public art. Ask them what other public art they can name, where they saw it, and why it was installed there. Do they think public art is always historical, or can it be humorous, sad, beautiful, or expressive in other ways? (Art 4.1.1, 4.3.1)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Show students photographs of other statues of Clark. Compare those artworks with Mahoney’s statue. Ask students what more they have learned about Clark by looking at other statues of him.
  • Help students identify outdoor sculptures of persons important to your neighborhood or city. Take a fieldtrip to a museum or library to find photographs and documentation of the sculptures and the subjects. Have students write short biographies about the people they study.
  • Have students use modeling clay to shape a model sculpture of a famous person from history. Students should research that person beforehand to learn details about physical characteristics, activities, and clothing. When they are finished, ask students to calculate how much bigger they would need to make their clay models in order for them to be life-size. Ask them to estimate the time, materials, and skills it would take.