In the Concert Grove section of Prospect Park
This classical, unadorned bust of the American author Washington Irving sits in the celebrated-by-few Concert Grove section of Prospect Park.
The monument is granite and bronze, and it was installed in the park sometime in 1871, just a few years after Prospect Park opened to the public. It was one of the first public sculptures in Brooklyn. The memorial to Abraham Lincoln, which sits not far from Irving in Prospect Park, was the first.
In “Brooklyn Public Monuments,” the author Elmer Sprague writes that the impetus for the monument came from a Brooklyn man, Demas Barnes, “a private citizen, noted for his liberality.” Barnes’s hope was, according to Sprague, that the statue would be “‘the nucleus of an art collection’” in the park. You could argue his hope came true; nearby are half a dozen other statues.
Irving, of course, was a famous writer and a favorite son of New York. Barnes’s public-minded sentiments aside, Irving was a fitting subject for one of Brooklyn’s first statues. As Sprague notes, “It is a testimony to Irving’s fame that his name is the only inscription on the monument.”
The piece has been rigorously compared to another monument to Irving, which resides outside his namesake high school east of Union Square in Manhattan. For instance, in “New York Civic Sculpture: A Pictorial Guide,” by Frederick Fried and Edmund V. Gillon Jr., the authors note stoically that the Prospect Park bust gives an “impression of greater solidarity than the one by Beer in Irving Place.” Others were not so kind. But I talk more about that here.