In the early 19th century, settlers and Indians were fighting acre by bloody acre for land in the West. John Quincy Adams Ward, who sculpted Indian Hunter, grew up in Urbana, Ohio - the frontier in his grandfather’s time. But by 1869, when this sculpture was dedicated in Central Park, the frontier was two thousand miles from New York. Few of the city’s residents had ever seen an Indian. Rose-colored glasses began to cancel out the color of blood.
Ward’s fellow American-born sculptors Thomas Ball, Hiram Powers, and Horatio Greenough trained and spent most of their working lives in Italy, where they created portraits in the neoclassical style and mythological or allegorical works.
Ward trained and then worked in America – mostly in New York. As an apprentice, he helped create the Washington at Union Square. Washington, dedicated in 1856, was the first life-size sculpture to stand outdoors in New York since the statue of King George III was pulled down at the beginning of the American Revolution.
Ward believed that American sculpture should show American subjects. His sculpture of an Indian was both well executed and novel. It gave Ward his big break, and was the first sculpture by an American to be placed in Central Park. (It was preceded by Schiller, erected in 1859, and Eagles and Prey, cast in 1850 but not erected in Central Park until 1863.)
Dozens of commissions followed. But the sculpture that Ward requested to guard his grave in Urbana, Ohio, was a copy of Indian Hunter.
John Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910) was for fifty-odd years known as the "Dean of American Sculpture."
Manhattan has Washington, Greeley, Holley, Conkling, Dodge and Shakespeare, the Seventh Regiment Memorial, 1869, and the Pilgrim, 1885 (Central Park, east end of the 72nd St. Traverse). The original sculptures of the New York Stock Exchange pediment were Ward's, but they've been replaced with copies. Brooklyn has Henry Ward Beecher, 1891 (Columbus Park).