Walker Hancock

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Walker Hancock, circa 1960.

Walker Kirtland Hancock (June 28, 1901, St. Louis, Missouri – December 30, 1998, Gloucester, Massachusetts) was an American sculptor and teacher. He created notable monumental sculptures, including the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial (1950–52) at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He made major additions to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., including Christ in Majesty (1972), the bas relief over the High Altar. Works by him are at the United States Military Academy (West Point), the Library of Congress, the United States Supreme Court Building, and the United States Capitol. During World War II, he was one of the Monuments Men, who recovered art treasures looted by the Nazis.

Hancock was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1989, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1990.


The son of Walter Scott Hancock, a lawyer, and wife Anna Spencer, he was born in St. Louis, Missouri.[1] He graduated from Central VPA High School in 1917, and studied for a year at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University under Victor Holm.[2] He then transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to study under Charles Grafly.

As a student at PAFA, he won the 1921 Edmund Stewardson Prize, and the 1922 and 1923 Cresson Traveling Scholarships, enabling him to travel through Europe. His Bust of Toivo (1925, St. Louis Art Museum) won PAFA's 1925 George D. Widener Memorial Gold Medal.[3]

He won the 1925 Rome Prize, which enabled him to study for 3 years at the American Academy in Rome, and travel through Italy and Europe.


Following Grafly's death in an auto accident, Hancock became PAFA's Instructor of Sculpture in 1929. He held that position until 1967, with interruptions for his war service and two years as sculptor-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome (1956–57).[4]

World War II[edit]

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and became one of the "Monuments Men", recovering art looted by the Nazis.[5]

Hancock, because he spoke fluent Italian, was recruited into Army intelligence where he wrote a handbook for soldiers serving in Italy. After Washington D.C., he was posted in London where he researched and wrote on monuments and art works in occupied France.

He was one of 10 officers sent to the continent after D-Day to implement the Allied Expeditionary Force’s policy to avoid, whatever military exigency would permit, damage to structures, documents or other items of historical or artistic importance and to prevent further deterioration of those already damaged. With personnel and equipment for this seemingly hopeless task in short supply, Captain Hancock had to rely on his ingenuity, resourcefulness, and extensive knowledge of European cultural history to rescue countless treasures from dampness, fire, weather and the depredations of looters and troops requiring billets.[6]

Angel of the Resurrection (1950-52), Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He won the national competition to design the Air Medal (1942), established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to honor "any person who, while serving in any capacity in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard of the United States subsequent to September 8, 1939, distinguishes, or has distinguished, himself by meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight."[7]

On December 4, 1943, three weeks before being shipped overseas, he married Saima Natti (1905–1984) in a chapel at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.[8] Later, he would make major additions to the cathedral, including the altarpiece for the Good Shepherd Chapel (1957); half-life-size statues of Ulrich Zwingli (1965) and Martin Luther (1967); the bas relief over the High Altar, Christ in Majesty (1972); and a life-size statue of Abraham Lincoln (1984).

Perhaps his most famous work is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial (1950–52) at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 39-foot (11.9 m) monument is dedicated to the 1,307 PRR employees who died in the war, the names of whom are inscribed on its tall, black-granite base. Hancock's heroic bronze, entitled Angel of the Resurrection, depicts Michael the Archangel raising up a fallen soldier from the Flames of War. It was his favorite sculpture.[9]

Stone Mountain[edit]

Close-up of the Confederate Memorial, Stone Mountain, Georgia.

In 1964, he took over supervision of the Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia. This had been begun in 1917 by Gutzon Borglum, who abandoned the project in 1925. (Borglum went on to design and carve Mount Rushmore.) No work had been done since 1928. Hancock's chief carver, Roy Faulkner, completed the project in 1972.[10]

Other works[edit]

At Trinity Episcopal Church, Topsfield, Massachusetts, he created an extraordinary sculpture group, The Garden of Gethsemane (1965–66). On one side of a forest glade, a kneeling figure of Christ, seen from behind, agonizes about offering himself up for sacrifice, while on the other side his disciples, Peter, James, John, lie asleep. The sculpture group was commissioned as a memorial to Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian murdered during the Civil Rights Movement. A duplicate of the 2-part work is at a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. A duplicate of Christ Praying is at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


For his military service, Hancock was awarded the American Service Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Service Medal.

For his body of work, he was awarded the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts's Medal of Honor in 1953, the National Sculpture Society's Herbert Adams Medal of Honor in 1954, the National Medal of Arts in 1989, and the Medal of Freedom in 1990.

He was a member of the Smithsonian Institution's National Collection of Fine Arts Commission. He was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1936, and became a full academician in 1939.


From 1930 onwards, he kept a studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts, to which he ultimately retired. Saima Natti Hancock, his wife of 40 years, died in 1984. The Cape Ann Historical Association mounted a 1989 retrospective exhibition of his works, and published his autobiography, A Sculptor's Fortunes (1997).

He endowed Massachusetts's Walker Hancock Prize, given for excellence in the arts. The National Sculpture Society has an annual prize named for him. His papers are at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and in the Hancock Family Archives in Gloucester, Massachusetts.[11]

Several of his works can be found at Saint Mary's Episcopal Church, Rockport, Massachusetts. He and his wife are buried at Seaside Cemetery, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

In the 2014 film The Monuments Men, the Sgt. Walter Garfield character played by John Goodman is loosely based on Hancock.[12]

Selected works[edit]

High Altar, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
Christ in Majesty (1972).

United States Military Academy (West Point)[edit]

Washington National Cathedral[edit]

James Madison (1974-76), James Madison Memorial Building, Library of Congress.
  • Christ the Good Shepherd Altarpiece (limestone, 1957), Good Shepherd Chapel.[37]
  • Statue of Ulrich Zwingli (limestone, 1965).[38]
  • Statue of Martin Luther (limestone, 1967).[39]
  • Christ in Majesty (limestone, 1972), bas relief over the High Altar.
  • Statue of Abraham Lincoln (bronze, 1984), west end of the Nave.

Library of Congress[edit]

United States Supreme Court Building[edit]

United States Capitol[edit]


  1. ^ Walter Barlow Stevens (1921). Centennial History of Missouri. St. Louis, Missouri: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 76. 
  2. ^ Crouse & Ambler, p. 15.
  3. ^ James-Gadzinski & Cunningham, p. 279.
  4. ^ James-Gadzinski & Cunningham, p. 279.
  5. ^ Captain Walker K. Hancock from Monuments Men Foundation.
  6. ^ Crouse & Ambler, p. 32.
  7. ^ Executive Order, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, dated 11 May 1942
  8. ^ Walker Hancock from The Monument Men.
  9. ^ James-Gadzinski & Cunningham, p. 279.
  10. ^ James-Gadzinski & Cunningham, p. 280.
  11. ^ "Walker Hancock Papers". Siris-archives.si.edu. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  12. ^ "Meet Gloucester's Monuments Man: Walker Hancock," Gloucester Times, February 7, 2014.
  13. ^ Zuni Bird Charmer from Flickr.
  14. ^ Bond of Postal Union from Smithsonian Institution.
  15. ^ Vision from VirtualTourist.
  16. ^ Courage from Flickr.
  17. ^ Sacrifice from VirtualTourist.
  18. ^ "Piatt Andrew Memorial". Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  19. ^ Crouse & Ambler, p. 66.
  20. ^ Little Triton from Flickr.
  21. ^ Judge Charles Lincoln Brown, from Hidden City Philadelphia.
  22. ^ Stephen Foster from Bronx Community College.
  23. ^ MedalArtists.com
  24. ^ Crouse & Ambler, p. 31.
  25. ^ Charles Lindberg Plaque, from St. Louis Art Museum.
  26. ^ Robert Frost from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
  27. ^ Eisenhower Inaugural Medal from www.inaugural medals.com
  28. ^ Andrew Mellon from SIRIS.
  29. ^ Woodrow Wilson from Bronx Community College.
  30. ^ Governor Baxter from Flickr.
  31. ^ John Paul Jones from www.ushistory.org.
  32. ^ Garden of Gethsemani from Flickr.
  33. ^ Scale model of Air from Flickr.
  34. ^ Arion from culturemap.com.
  35. ^ W. E. B. DuBois from Arts at Harvard.
  36. ^ General Groves from SIRIS.
  37. ^ Good Shepherd Chapel from Pinterest.
  38. ^ Ulrich Zwingli from SIRIS.
  39. ^ Martin Luther from SIRIS.
  40. ^ Stephen Foster from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
  41. ^ Crouse & Ambler, p. 40.
  42. ^ Hancock at work on the James Madison sculpture (1974) from Library of Congress.
  43. ^ Crouse & Ambler, p. 75.
  44. ^ Vice-President Humphrey from U. S. Senate Art Collection.
  45. ^ Vice-President Ford from U. S. Senate Art Collection.
  46. ^ Crouse & Ambler, p. 75.
  47. ^ Vice-President Bush from U. S. Senate Art Collection.


  • Walker Hancock, "Experiences of a Monuments Officer in Germany", College Art Journal, 5:4 (May 1946), College Art Association.
  • Timothy Crouse & Louise Todd Ambler, The Sculpture of Walker Hancock, exhibition catalogue (Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 1989): introduction, biographical essay, afterword, checklist of works, 1919-88.
  • Walker Hancock, A Sculptor's Fortunes: A Memoir (Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 1997).
  • Susan James-Gadzinski & Mary Mullen Cunningham, "Walker Hancock, b. 1901", American Sculpture in the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA, 1997), pp. 279–85.

External links[edit]

Podcast: 1977 interview with Walker Hancock on his work as a Monuments Man, from Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution – (MP3, 24:01).