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Park Pick: The Angel on the Hill

Statue by storied French artist stands watch over Monument Hill.

By Jennifer Carpenter

Full disclosure: I’m not a native Texan. Joining the TPWD state parks team made me eager to learn more about my newly adopted state. After the obligatory Alamo tour, I visited Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites in La Grange, where I unexpectedly encountered the work of an international award-winning artist.

Standing before me was a 10-foot-tall statue of an armed female angel. Her commanding presence conveys the importance of her task: guarding 52 Texan men who died while fighting the Mexican army in the 1840s, including the victims of the Black Bean Episode.

I’m not the only one taken with the sculpture, Superintendent Dennis Smith tells me. Many visitors ask what the angel represents.

Hoping to impress my new colleagues, I volunteered my research services. Monument Hill’s tomb was dedicated in 1848. Archival materials reveal that the centennial of Texas independence in 1936 renewed interest in the site, and Austin architects Page and Southerland designed a new 48-foot-tall shellstone memorial, accompanied by a bronze sculpture by French artist Raoul Josset.

Josset

An armed angel created by Raoul Josset guards the tomb at Monument Hill.

The creative opportunity of the Texas Centennial compelled Josset to relocate to Dallas. He completed several pieces for the Centennial Exposition at Fair Park and others at Texas historic sites: Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site’s George Childress statue and the Fannin Memorial Monument in Goliad.

Josset’s descriptions of his Texas commissions shed light on his creative vision. In a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, he wrote, “Most of my memorials in Texas are dedicated to the memory of brave Texans who were slaughtered, many while captives, until the victory of San Jacinto liberated this great state.”

Themes of pride, beauty and possibility infused his sculptures.

Josset

Josset also designed the Fannin Memorial Monument in Goliad.

“I have tried to portray, in the form of a graceful and beautiful woman, all the characteristics which have gone to make the Centennial possible — the bravery and courage of the people, the artistic effort put forth, the endurance and stamina necessary to see the job through,” was how he described one of his pieces at Fair Park.

Through my research, I came to identify with Josset in a small way. We each moved to Texas for a new opportunity and came to discover the spirit and camaraderie of its people. Josset’s handiwork at Monument Hill continues to captivate 80 years later, reminding us of Texas’ past and encouraging us to look a little closer at the graceful artwork completed in its name.

Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites are located in La Grange, between San Antonio, Austin and Houston. For more information, call (979) 968-5658 or visit tpwd.texas.gov/monumenthill.

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