William Holbrook Beard

William Holbrook Beard was a 19th Century artist whose work mostly involves animals acting like humans. In particular, he is known for his paintings of bears–which explains this monument.

I had never heard of Beard before. I don’t know why he is not more well-known. These paintings are insane. I am going to have to buy a book of his work–I could look at these forever.

beard3From the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s site:
Beard became an immensely popular animal painter, and he painted a large variety of animals, favoring rabbits, cats, monkeys, squirrels, and especially bears. Both lauded and criticized for his humorous satires, he often substituted animals for humans in his visual social commentary. He represented the condition of man and universal concerns by painting allegorical and fantasy subjects. He also produced work drawn from high and low literature, depicting characteristics of jealousy, pride, drunkenness, and greed.

Beard, an Ohio native, studied in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland before moving to New York City in 1857. He opened a studio in what was known as the Tenth Street Studio Building–this was one of the first all-artist studio buildings in New York City, and was instrumental in making Greenwich Village the center of the NYC art world for pretty much the next century. William Merritt Chase and Winslow Homer also had studios in that building.

He wrote a book called “Humor in Animals” in 1885.

The bear sculpture is by Dan Ostermiller, a renowned American sculptor, and recent president of the National Sculpture Society. Ostermiller does a lot of sculptures of bears and other wildlife, making him the perfect choice for this monument.

Samuel L. Mitchell

Stumbled across this one today. I figured it had to be someone somewhat important because it still had the iron fence around it. Most of the cast-iron fences in the cemetery were removed and used for scrap metal during the war.

I got home and Googled Samuel L Mitchell, and found that he was quite a big deal: he was a senator in the early 1800’s, and good buddies with New York governor DeWitt Clinton. Mitchell and Clinton were both instrumental in the building of the Erie Canal.

Santo Matarazzo

This is one of the benefits of wandering around aimlessly in Green-Wood. This beautiful and modern-looking monument is well off the beaten path, almost hidden in a grove of trees and behind a bunch of other large stones. I doubt I would have ever seen it from the road.

Turns out, I didn’t have to dig too deeply to find out the story behind this intriguing statue of St. Michael. Santo Matarazzo was well-known in my old neighborhood, Carroll Gardens. Emigrating from Sicily to Brooklyn in the early 1950s, he was a key player in the revitalization of “Brownstone Brooklyn”. In fact, Matarazzo’s contribution to renovating classic brownstones was so impressive that he became known as “Mr. Brownstone” around the neighborhood.

santoI didn’t know Santo Matarazzo, but I bet he frequented one of the local Social Clubs. Carroll Gardens has a rich tradition of Italian Social Clubs; they’re essentially clubs for elderly Italian immigrants where they play cards, drink beer, and watch football. One of the biggest is called the “Van Westerhout Cittadini Molesi” (no one ever refers to it by name), and it’s at the corner of Court and 2nd Place. I would talk to those guys all the time when I used to walk by there on my way to my studio. Sometimes they would give me scotch! They always had a friendly word. (Here’s a good article about them in the South Brooklyn Post.)

I like to think that Santo Matarazzo was hanging out there. But who knows, maybe not. What the hell do I know.

After renovating Brownstones for the better part of his life, he turned his attention to sculpture in his final years. He created numerous statues and busts, and even exhibited his work at the Smithsonian in Washington.

From The Brooklyn Paper‘s description of the Matarazzo’s home:

Nearly every available space is occupied by his art. The walls remain full of his paintings, which include a self-portrait, a picture of Jesus, and a Sicilian seascape dated 1952 — a reference, Lucia Matarazzo said, of the year her husband left his homeland.

Other plaster sculptures honored famous or historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali, and, most recently, Barack Obama, the presidential candidate for whom Matarazzo intended to vote.

Matarazzo also contributed this sculpture of William Floyd to the community square in Mastic Beach, Long Island, where his family had their second home:
william floyd statue