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D.C. for some time before finding a home at the Smithsonian. The statue was unique in that it depicted the defeated Napoleon, with his head down. It was an unusual interpretation of an unusual commission, that of a defeated leader, especially one destined for a place of honor in a town square. However, this work led to other commissions, including an important one from the United States Military Academy at West Point, depicting Civil War Major General John Sedgwick, who was killed in the Battle of Spotsylvania in Virginia. In addition to the standing general, Thompson included a bas-relief on the base of the statue depicting Sedgwick’s death in the battle. During his early years in New York City, Thompson cultivated an active social life. He frequented the famous Pfaff’s Cellar restaurant and bar and was considered one of the new avant-garde artists and writers referred to as “bohemians.” Among whom were the writers, Fitz-James O’Brien, William Winter, Thomas Bailey Aldrich and the artists Frank Bellew and Sol Etynge, Jr. who illustrated the work of Charles Dickens. Two members of the assemblage who later rose to prominence were poet Walt Whitman and France’s Premier Georges Clemenceau. Lola Montez (see article in June/July issue on this Irish lady), sometimes dropped into Pfaff’s, as the guest of her friend Walt Whitman. RIGHT: Napoleon I (1866), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. BELOW LEFT: Portrait bust of Charles Loring Elliott (1870). BELOW RIGHT: Portrait bust of William C. Bryant (1864). Both busts are owned by Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Thompson joined the Lotos Club and the Union League Club. He became a wellknown host himself. A quote from the wife of his close friend, the poet and journalist Thomas Bailey Aldrich, may have hinted at problems to come: “Mr. Launt Thompson’s studio was one of the largest, and as he was always a great favorite, choice spirits were to be met there day and night.” By “spirits” she was probably referring to interesting people but there may have been a pun intended with regard to the alcohol served. At any rate, it indicated Thompson’s outgoing personality – and perhaps his aversion to being alone. Thompson was now doing so well financially that he could afford to take some time off to do a “Grand Tour” of Europe, so popular with well-to-do and up-and-coming young Americans of the time. His tour, however, was more than a vacation. He went to see firsthand, and study the great works of sculpture throughout Europe. In 1868, he left for Paris with his friend and fellow artist, the landscape painter and student of Frederick Edwin Church, Jervis McEntee. After a brief stay in the city of lights, the pair traveled to Rome and joined up with Church and another member of the Hudson River School, John Ferguson Weir. Thompson then went on to Venice, where he met up again with McEntee, who had preceded him and had rented an apartment with his wife. He stayed with them for a while, one floor above the poet Robert Browning, before venturing on to Florence, where he visited the famous Irish-American sculptor in residence there, Hiram Powers. Thompson then returned to Paris where he was received by the American illustrator Gustave Dore. He finished the grand tour in London, spending time at the Royal Academy, the British Museum and Windsor Castle. After what proved a valuable and highly educational tour, Thompson returned to New York City in 1869, and embarked upon what was to become the most productive phase of his career. After completing a bronze portrait bust of Sanford Robinson Gifford, leader of the Hudson River School, he was selected to create a statue for the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts depicting a Union Army color-bearer. He then produced a life-size statue of Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, which was placed in front of the Old Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home in Washington, D.C., of which Scott was a co-founder. The statue faces the Capitol Building. For this work Thompson was paid the then formidable sum of $15,000. While he was completing this work he also executed a bronze statue of the Reverend Abraham Pierson, the first rector of Yale University, done posthumously. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2014 IRISH AMERICA 81

Profile for Irish America Magazine

Irish America October / November 2014  

The October/November issue of Irish America magazine, featuring the annual Wall Street 50 list with cover story and WS50 Keynote Speaker Kat...

Irish America October / November 2014  

The October/November issue of Irish America magazine, featuring the annual Wall Street 50 list with cover story and WS50 Keynote Speaker Kat...