Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, by Emanuel Leutze, 1862
This mural, located in the west grand stairway of the House wing, was the only work of art made for the Capitol during the Civil War.
Architect of the Capitol
A Creative Showcase
Expansion provided additional space that offered a showcase for American creativity. Sculptors filled porticoes with statues, and designed elaborate stair rails and bronze doors. They also turned their talents to commonplace features, such as door pulls. Painters covered walls and ceilings with murals, drawing on both ancient and American subjects for inspiration.
Artists from Italy, France, Germany, England, and the United States crafted decorations. The work of Thomas Crawford, the most celebrated of the sculptors employed, can be seen in the Senate pediment and the Statue of Freedom atop the dome. The Capitol’s leading artist, the painter Constantino Brumidi, created vibrant frescoes for rooms and corridors. His greatest work, The Apotheosis of Washington, graces the canopy over the inner dome.