One of the many things to see on the Washington Capitol Grounds is Winged Victory. Created by artist Alonzo Victor Lewis (1886 – 1946), Winged Victory honors veterans of World War I. It was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1938.
The impressive Winged Victory Monument depicts the goddess Nike, also known as Victory, hovering protectively over four figures, a sailor, a soldier, a marine, and a Red Cross nurse. More than 21,000 U.S. Army nurses and nearly 1,500 U.S. Navy nurses served in military hospitals in the United States and overseas during the war. There were 116,516 U.S. deaths during World War I.
There are four inscriptions on the monument:
- East facing side: “To the memory of the citizens of the State of Washington who lost their lives in the service of the United States during the World War 1917–1918”
- North facing side: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend”
- West facing side: “Their sacrifice was to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world”
- South facing side: “They fought to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy”
Public art has the remarkable ability to present a multilayered story adding historical and cultural dimensions to the public spaces that we use every day. You can read more about the importance of public art in this monograph.
Lewis was a painter before he became a sculptor and he created a fair bit of controversy by painting the prizefighter Jack Dempsey. You can read more about Lewis here and here.
If you have ever wondered how monuments are cared for over time, the Washington Department of Enterprise Services provides a fair amount of detail about the upkeep of this monument and other monuments and public art pieces on their website.