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U.S. Grant's Steely Bronze
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Avoid sunshine. Shrady's art is seen best in dismal weather, with squishing mud, cold rain and ghost-moans in the wind.
Rain drips from his hat. In just three weeks in Virginia the army he commanded suffered 44,000 casualties. His eyes are on the battle. You can imagine what he sees.
But you don't have to imagine. You can see it. The mounted general is still. All else is action. There are a dozen other horses, and 11 other soldiers, in Shrady's Grant Memorial, and not one is at rest.
The metal swoops and swirls. The horses neigh and stumble. Their tongues loll from their mouths. The soldiers shout and clench their jaws. Their whipping cloaks, their boot buckles, the howitzer they're hauling -- its axle tree, its muzzle sight, the bridles and the reins, every detail is right.
The highly mobile horse artillery that Grant deployed in war galloped into battle in front of the infantry to blow gaps in the line with canister and grapeshot. Shrady often went to West Point to watch the horse artillery practicing at speed. His sculpture isn't invention, it's reporting. It isn't just art, it's war.
In Shrady's other sculpture group the cavalry is charging. The leader of the squad, flags swirling all about him, his sword raised in the air, has just barked a command.
One man is dying. His horse has just fallen, pinning its rider, squashing the poor trooper into the muddy ground. In an instant he'll be trampled. His comrades charge unheedingly. Only one has noticed. With a big dramatic gesture -- just like those in silent movies -- he throws his arm before his eyes to hide the horrid sight.
This is just about as vivid, and just about as violent, as memorial sculpture gets.
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Grant had few connections to the gilded Eastern worlds of intellect and power. Shrady had many.
His father, a doctor, had been one of Grant's physicians. His brother-in-law, a millionaire, was the son of rich Jay Gould. An ancestor founded what later would become Columbia University, where Shrady earned his law degree. Shrady was wired. So is his art.