According to an article written by Cynthia Mills and published in Vermont History 68 (Winter/Spring 2000): pages 35-57, artist and writer Lorado Taft compared and contrasted Karl Bitter’s Thanatos and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Henry Adams funerary sculpture which became known as “Grief”. Mills writes, “the Adams monument in Washington, D.C. [became] a touchstone for all draped bronze allegorical sculpture in American cemeteries at the turn of the century.”
The Adams memorial was created and designed for Henry Adams whose wife, Marian Hooper “Clover” committed suicide in 1885. Thanatos was designed by Karl bitter for the John E. Hubbard Memorial.
Mills writes, “Lorado Taft wrote in 1903 of the Hubbard’s figure: “The breathlessness, the swaying arms, the grip of the hand, the pressure of the feet, the tangle of the enveloping shroud give this figure another kind of impressiveness from the awful calm of Saint-Gaudens’s sibyl. Mr. Bitter’s conception is less majestic, but has an intensity which grows upon one.”
“Taft continued, however, to speak of the monument in words that could have been applied to the famous Adams monument itself:
“This unknown being, wrapped in its mantle as in one of [symbolist painter Elihu] Vedder’s swirls, this groping, unseeing creation, has in its make-up something ideal, of the large and deep, by virtue of which it seems full of significance. The sculptor must have meant something by it. What its meaning, each must read for himself.”**
**Lorado Taft comments in his chapter on “Decorative sculptors and men of foreign birth” in The History of American Sculpture, 1903, 460-462.