It has been said that Henry Merwin Shrady created some of the finest bronze wildlife and Indian sculptures of the American West. Shrady also attained considerable notoriety for his masterwork, Appomattox Memorial Monument to General Ulysses S. Grant in Washington, D.C., which he devoted twenty-two years to producing.
Henry Shady was born in New York City, the son of a surgeon. He had no formal art instruction; rather he studied law at Columbia University. Shrady was prevented by illness from practicing the law he studied at Columbia, and entered the match business in 1900, failing miserably. The same year, at twenty-nine, he began sketching and painting. Shrady enjoyed drawing. On his way home from work he would often stop at a pet shop to sketch the animals displayed in the window. He had also studied biology and animal anatomy while at Columbia which aided him artistically. The young artist also spent weekends at the Bronx Zoo making sketches and studies of animals.
Shrady’s first model was a group entitled Artillery Going Into Action. This complex group consisted of six horses and riders drawing a cannon. Shrady used his own saddle horse as his model. Alan Southworth, a family friend, photographed Shrady’s model and had it published as an engraving. A representative of Gorham Silver Company saw the engraving and suggested Shrady pursue a career in sculpture. The company then offered to have Shrady’s model cast.
In 1902 Shrady was awarded the $250,000 commission for his life work, the Grand Memorial. Shrady also created a bronze of a grazing cavalry named The Empty Saddle. A committee member sponsoring a competition for an equestrian statue of Washington at Valley Forge saw The Empty Saddle and invited Shrady to enter the contest. Shrady submitted two plaster models, winning the contest. His completed statue was placed on the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza in Brooklyn. Despite the artist’s notoriety for his monumental sculptures of heroes and public figures, his early bronzes are of special interest today. These works were highly realistic, with skillfully modeled details.
Henry Shrady died April 22, 1922, in New York City.