Gift of the Isaac Gordon Estate through the Lincoln Rochester Trust Company
Research Curator Marjorie Searl speaks about this object.
Thomas Ridgeway Gould's sculpture The West Wind, discussed by Marjorie Searl:
A work of art has the capacity to compress time, as we come face to face with paintings of the Civil War, or sculpture that commemorates a Revolutionary War hero or a beloved president. So it is that The West Wind, the marble figure on view here, links us to the 1876 American Centennial Exposition, which was the first official World’s Fair, a celebration in Philadelphia in honor of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Having survived the tragic and potentially fatal Civil War, the nation saw in the Centennial an opportunity to foster belief in a united and progressive America. Exhibition halls with displays and demonstrations of all type filled the grounds of Fairmount Park. An art gallery housed hundreds of works of art, including The West Wind, whose sculptor carved multiple versions of in two different sizes in his studio in Florence, Italy. It’s not clear if the MAG version was the one on view at the Centennial Exposition, but its connection to the fair made it a proud possession of Rochester’s millionaire, Daniel Powers . He installed it in the art gallery located on the upper floors of his impressive fireproof building, which still stands at the corner of Main and State Sts. in downtown Rochester. Sadly for Rochester, Powers’ famous art gallery to which all were welcome for a twenty-five cent admission fee, was closed after his death in 1897 and its collections dispersed. Fortunately for the Memorial Art Gallery, West Wind was one of the few works that remained behind, and in 1966 it moved from the Powers Building to MAG.
I can’t get enough of looking at the way in which the sculptor, Thomas Ridgeway Gould, was able to carve hard Italian marble to create the illusion of the figure’s soft and flowing skirt. Gracefully balanced on her tiptoes, her figure faces forward while her eyes look off in the distance, perhaps to suggest a nation’s endless horizon. A contemporary critic wrote admiringly and aptly:
"Careless and American in aspect, her pulse-beats throbbing through a belt of Western stars, the glad incarnation seems to have just cooled in the Pacific the light foot she sets on the shore of an untamed continent."
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