Saturday, July 4, 2015

Printmakers Celebrate Lady Liberty

There she is, folks. The lady herself. The symbol of our country, and the protectorate of our ideals. Lady Liberty.In celebration of our nation’s birthday, this post is dedicated to our national symbol, The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). Of course, there are numerous artists who have created prints to commemorate this classic example of our democracy and all of the good things we stand for. As you will see, my inked up friends, the statue evolves and morphs according to the style and period of the time in which the prints were made; but the overwhelming purposeful Neoclassical quality of its design shines through.

Some say our Lady Liberty is handsome, and some say she is beautiful. I think of her as our Mona Lisa, strong, purposeful, yet serene in her convictions to be a beacon of light leading the masses to a new world (the U.S.). She gives comfort to the masses, who like a child, clings to its mother for protection. She has withstood the tests of time and renovation, stood stalwartly strong in the face of the terrorist attacks upon the World Trade Towers, and been a welcoming face to millions of tourists and migrants to this country. It is inconceivable at this point to separate her from our national identity. She is, simply put, Amazing.

To give you a little background information about our Lady Liberty, she is a colossal sculpture sitting on Liberty Island, in New York City. The statue, designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was built by Gustave Eiffel and dedicated on October 28, 1886. It was a gift to the United States from the people of France.

The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the goddess of freedom widely worshipped in ancient Rome, especially among emancipated slaves. She bears a torch and a tablet, upon which is inscribed the date July 4, 1776 commemorating our American Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States, and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.

The statue was constructed in France, shipped overseas, and assembled on Bedloe's Island. The statue was administered by the United States Lighthouse Board until 1901 and then by the Department of War; since 1933 it has been maintained by the National Park Service.

Bartholdi’s design was inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who hoped that by calling attention to the democratic achievements of the United States, the French people would be inspired to call for their own democracy.

Bartholdi had made a first model of his concept in 1870. Bartholdi made the first sketches for the statue during his U.S. visit at American artist John La Farge's Rhode Island studio. Bartholdi wished to give the statue a peaceful appearance and chose a torch, representing progress, for the figure to hold. He placed a diadem on top of its head to project seven rays of light, to evoke the sun, the seven seas, and the seven continents. Reputedly the face was modeled after that of Charlotte Beysser Bartholdi, the sculptor's mother. He gave it bold classical contours and applied simplified modeling, reflecting its solemnity.

Bartholdi obtained the services of Gustave Eiffel, who made the statue one of the earliest examples of curtain wall construction, in where the exterior of the structure is supported by an interior framework. The completed statue was formally presented at a ceremony in Paris on July 4, 1884. From there, the statue was disassembled and shipped to the US.

Bartholdi chose Bedloe's Island as a site for the statue, because all ships arriving in New York had to sail past it. The statue’s foundation was laid inside Fort Wood, a disused army base on Bedloe's Island. The fortifications of the structure were in the shape of an eleven-point star. The statue's foundation and pedestal were aligned so that it would greet ships entering the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean. In 1881, Richard Morris Hunt was commissioned to design the pedestal. His design contains elements of classical and Aztec architecture, including Doric portals. Bartholdi placed an observation platform near the top of the pedestal.

On June 17, 1885, the statue arrived in the New York port. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the French steamer Isère. Norwegian immigrant civil engineer Joachim Goschen Giæver designed the structural framework for the Statue of Liberty once it was ready to assemble on Bedloe’s Island. Once the statue was assembled, President Grover Cleveland, who presided over a dedication ceremony held on October 28, 1886, stated that the statue's "stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man's oppression until Liberty enlightens the world".

Our Lady Liberty is a symbol of all that is good and upstanding about our country. The prints selected for this post reflect her strength and inspire patriotism. If you haven’t visited this national treasure, take a trip to New York City, visit the World Trade Tower Memorial and then take a ferry out to visit this lovely lady. It’s a pilgrimage we all should do.

Happy fourth of July to everyone!

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