JOHN EDGAR JOHNSON SR.
AUGUST 16, 1873
MARCH 30, 1919
The John Edgar Johnson Sr. monument in the Beach Grove Cemetery in Muncie, Indiana,is described and pictured in the Dodds Granite Company catalog. The advertising copy described the monument: “There is an atmosphere of peace and rest surrounding the very presence of this remarkable work of art. The central portion with its symbolic figure and delicately draped ornamentation blends naturally into the monolithic exedra on either side. There is a life-like quality in the statue and an exactness of detail throughout, made possible by the use of that fine grained, even textured granite, Victoria White.”
The monument described is of the Art Nouveau style demonstrated by the long fluid vines of the florals adorning the monolith in the center and designs trailing into parts of the seats to either side. The Art Nouveau movement was a bridge between Neoclassicism and Modernism and reached its popularity from 1890 to 1905. Luminary artists such as Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; glass designers Rene Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Spanish architect Gaudi among others also used long flourishing lines inspired by florals and plants in their work. Not all of the lines in the exedra are rounded and shows the emergence of Modernism in the design of this piece.
Further demonstrating the Art Nouveau design of this monument is the look of the mourning figure in the center. The figure has the characteristics of many of the women portrayed during the late 1800s and early 1900s, such as the Gibson girl that was popularized at that time.
Generally an exedra is a semi-circular structure, often with a bench with a high back. This exedra breaks with the traditional design by being a straight bench on either side of the monolith. Sometimes there is an architectural feature in the center of the exedra, often with statuary or the family name as in this example from the Dodds Granite Company. In antiquity the exedra was designed to facilitate philosophical discussion and debate. In cemetery architecture the exedra is usually a part of a landscape design.
An oil lamp is carved into the monolith at the feet of the mourning figure. A flickering flame can be seen coming from the lamp providing light. The Bible verse, II Samuel: Chapter 22, verse 29, says, “For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness.” The light emanating from the lamp represents the pathway to Truth and to Knowledge.
I have also found this exact design in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, marking the grave of:
ALONZO B. SEE
OCTOBER 25, 1849
DECEMBER 16, 1941
I also found one at the Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. There is a notable difference between the examples in Brooklyn and Colma–the exedras to either side of the monolith are longer than the exedra in the example in Muncie.
The Dodds Granite Company catalog and many other gravestone and monument company brochures can be found at the Stone Quarries and Beyond Website: http://quarriesandbeyond.org/cemeteries_and_monumental_art/cemetery_stones.html.
The Stone Quarries and Beyond Website was created by Peggy B. and Patrick Perazzo. It focuses on historic stone quarries, stone workers and companies, and related subjects such as geology. Whenever possible links of finished products are provided on the Website. There is a “Quarry Articles” section that presents articles, booklets, and links from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including the 1856 “The Marble-Workers’ Manual.” The “Cemetery Stones and Monuments” section provides references and resources, including many old monument magazines, catalogs, price lists, and a photographic tour “From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments.”