The eight essays collected in this volume were originally papers presented at a symposium held at the Metropolitan Museum on October 26, 2001. The symposium was organized to celebrate the publication of American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a two-volume catalogue of the Museum's holdings in American sculpture by artists born before 1885. The symposium participants included art historians, museum professionals, and independent scholars, who together comprised a cross section of current thematic interests and scholarly approaches to American sculpture. Although their essays are topically diverse, each takes as a starting point a sculpture or group of sculptures in the Metropolitan's collection. The first broadly surveys Neoclassical relief sculpture, while the other essays focus on works by individual artists, among them Harriet Hosner, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, and Malvina Hoffman.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has long been a focal point for the study of American sculpture. In the Museum's earliest years, its core collection was formed under the stewardship of prominent sculptors John Quincy Adams Ward and Daniel Chester French, who served as trustees and oversaw the acquisition of notable Neoclassical marbles and Beaux-Arts bronzes. In the past three decades, a consistently judicious program of exhibitions, publications, and acquisitions has refined and strengthened an already comprehensive collection. This volume—the fourth in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Symposia series—is designed to encourage further inquiry and interest in American sculpture before 1925, this book proudly participates in the Museum's core mission to study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advanced knowledge of the diverse works of art in its unsurpassed collections.