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Public Art

General Nathanial Lyon

By Erhardt Siebert
Category: Statue


General Lyon had an easier time keeping St. Louis from falling into Confederate hands than the statue honoring him has had keeping its rightful place in the public arena. One newspaper article even stated that the General would be better honored by the absence of the sculpture. The monument was poorly conceived and badly executed. It was originally planned for a $50,000 budget and had to be revised to fit the $15,000 that was raised; the artist was selected, sight-unseen, on the basis of a magazine article praising his work; then St. Louis University took both the site for which the sculpture was designed for their development of Mill Creek Valley, as well as the private bequest designated for the site acquisition.

The artist, whose father was a St. Louis physician, studied art at Washington University, then in Chicago. He opened a studio for a while in New York City, returned to St. Louis, and finally gave up art to become the supervisory photographer for Aeronautical Chart Plant. He repeatedly denied that the sculpture was bad, saying that it was along new lines that old-style advocates would not appreciate. Artistic criticism ranged from calling the work “unaesthetic” to “a crime” to one description referring to the familiar comedy of two people in a horse outfit moving in different directions.

The work was moved in 1960 to its current location in Lyon Park, where it joined the earlier monument to Lyon executed by Adolphus Druiding.

Dimensions: 22′ x 8′ x 6′
Year Completed: 1929
Material: Bronze and limestone
Owner: City of St. Louis
Donor: Lyon Monument Association and private donors

About the artist:

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