In front of the Tweed family tomb group, we couldn’t figure out which one belonged to Boss Tweed. “It does not matter, big or small, he is dead now,” another visitor commented.
William Merritt Chase was certainly a big name during his lifetime and still one of the most well-known American artists. The engraving on his tombstone has almost worn off over time. Chase once furnished his 10th street studio with luxurious and exotic items. He was one of the first generation of “modern artists” who took advantage of media and critics to create and protect his image as an artist. For sure, the studio visit is a powerful tool to connect to old and new clienteles and show off his tastes. Thus the meager size and simplistic style of the tombstone seems so incongruent to his social status.
Eastman Johnson was out of fashion during his late years. His drawing of a Jewish boy was sold by his widow to John Beatty, then the director of Carnegie Institute, for five dollars. It was one of the few portrait drawings that I would never forget. No other artist better portrayed antebellum and post-civil war America than Eastman Johnson. The tombstones says it clearly: “His works are his monument.”
It was not surprising to see the family tombs of both Nathaniel Currier and James Ives are well maintained and fairly grand. A business can run through generations successfully, but artistic talent may not transcend to the next generation, albeit all the best wish and family environment. One exception is perhaps Lucy Durand Woodman, the daughter of Asher B. Durand. She must be proud to be not only the daughter of Asher Durand but also an artist herself. Buried not far away from her father, her tombstone is in a shape of a artist pallet with three brushes. Thanks to internet, Geo and I found an image of her painting online, although more often her name appears in different museums as a donor of Asher Durand’s works.
There are not many examples of successful artists families (Pearle, Wyeth, and maybe Hill came to my mind), but both William and James Hart enjoyed a successful career with similar subjects and styles. The brothers were buried not together, but within close proximity. James’ tombstone is unique in that a cow is portrayed in the bronze relief. Quite often, Jame’s cow groups are grazing near the brooks or river banks, forming a horizontal or diagonal band. But here, the only cow is resting and staring earnestly toward the visitor. An angel stretched her arm over the cow and a quote from the bible says: “He makes me lie down on the pastures.”
Green-Wood Cemetery has about nine burial and/or cremations every day. Its vast expanse makes searching burial very challenging. Sometimes an old road or path is eliminated and instead a row of tomestones replaces it. In the case of George Bellows, we didn’t find his tombstone because the small trail which can be used to anchor his tomb is gone. Only after we came back and searched on internet did we find out his tombstone only specifies his initials: G W B.
The biggest surprise came from the mausoleum of John LaFarge. Louis Comfort Tiffany built an empire of stained glass, but LaFarge, equally famous for his glass-making, rested in a much grander scale near a slope. There, a red flower was placed on the door, a striking contrast between red and black. The intricate spiderwebs indicate perhaps it has been there long time. The door has no windows to see through. I am wondering what it would look like inside?