Biography: James E. Kelly is best known for his sculptures of American historical events and themes. Born in New York to Irish immigrant parents, Kelly enrolled at the National Academy of Design, where he studied under Winslow Homer.
While working as an illustrator and wood engraver for magazines such as Scribner’s and Harper’s Monthly, he gained fame for his sketched portraits of Union generals of the Civil War, whom he encouraged to speak honestly and extemporaneously while he drew them. For Kelly, the interviews he conducted were as vital and significant as the portraits he created.
In the 1880s, Kelly became a sought-after sculptor for American war monuments, and created popular sculptures to honor the battles of Gettysburg, Monmouth, and Saratoga as well as memorials for Presidents Washington and Lincoln. One of his more notable works depicts Caesar Rodney’s ride on horseback from Dover, Delaware, to Philadelphia to offer Delaware’s support to the Declaration of Independence.