“The Sun Vow”, Hermon MacNeil’s earliest acclaimed work, was exhibited around the world and still can be visited in museums and galleries today. This old photo postcard was purchased recently by the editor.
“The Sun Vow” is pictured here in an early B&W Postcard by photographer Gabriel Moulin.
The likeness probably dates from the 1929 Exhibition of the National Sculpture Society at the newly completed California Palace of Legion of Honor, San Francisco.
The “Sun Vow” was also exhibited by MacNeil in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, as well as, Exhibitions in Paris, Buffalo, and Saint Louis. The story of California Palace and its permanent reconstruction is an interesting one:
“The California Palace of the Legion of Honor originated as the French pavilion in San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Alma de Bretteville Spreckels was so impressed with the pavilion that she offered to construct a permanent museum in its likeness, which was completed in 1924 and now stands as the Legion of Honor.”
Thus the 1929 exhibit gave birth to this historic photo by Moulin. An previous image of this postcard was posted several years ago on this website at [click here]
“Clan MacNeil Connections and Hermon Atkins MacNeil”
The current issue of the Clan MacNeil Association of America magazine has a feature story on Hermon Atkins MacNeil by webmaster, Dan Leininger
The Galley edited by Vicki Sanders Corporon titles Dan’s story as “Clan MacNeil Connections and Hermon Atkins MacNeil.” The feature and photos fill 8 pages in the “Galley” issue for Spring/Summer 2014.
The featured photos include the East Pediment of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. (with a detail close-up of Moses, Confucius, and Salon); The George Rogers Clark monument in Vincennes, IN at the site of his victory over the British in 1779; Confederate Defenders of Charleston, SC; the Young Lawyer Abraham Lincoln in Champaign, IL; General George Washington on the Washington Arch, NYC, NY. Also in this article are photos of the grouping Coming of the White Man in Portland, OR; The WWI Angel of Peace Monument in Flushing NY; and a bust of Dwight L. Moody (who MacNeil sketched during the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.
Another art work of Hermon A. MacNeil has emerged through the kindnesses of the Orr family and the attraction of this website — namely, a beautiful portrait bust of Hermon MacNeil’s physician, Dr. Francis G. Reilly.
Pat Orr send the information about his MacNeil painting of “Dave Blue” as presented in my previous posting. He was also kind enough to ask his brother, Tim Orr, to send some photos of another Hermon MacNeil creation that has been in their family (for almost) five generations.
Pat sent the following request to Tim:
Dan has a website dedicated to the life and works of his uncle H.A. MacNeil. I have the oil painting of Dave Blue Who Lived Under the Ground and you have the bronze bust of Daddy Boy (Grandma’s father, Dr. Francis Reilly). Could you email him some pics. See his directions below. He wants to add the discoveries of his uncle’s work to his website and possibly a book as well.
Tim sent several photos of the bust of “Daddy Boy,” as the family has called their heirloom piece. Enhanced profile and frontal views are posted here.
Pat also included some tidbits of family history he gathered in his “MacNeil detective work:’
I have a few more details of interesting information for you. I spoke with my mother and she said H A MacNeil was a neighbor of my great grandparents in the Catskills. They had a summer house there, and he had one down the road. Apparently, my great grandfather was his doctor. In fact, H A did a bronze bust of my great grandfather which my brother has now at his house. …
In terms of the home in upstate New York called “Bittersweet” I don’t know what happened to that. I imagine it was sold at some point along the way. That was way before my time. I was born in Washington, D.C. in 1970.
Did you ever meet your uncle, or you just know him by way of photographs?
Tim provided additional interesting family details not mentioned before:
As I understand the story, the bust was compensation to my GG (sic: great-grandfather) for medical services rendered…but that could just be a story. The medallion was either a gift or he may have purchased it, or could have been compensation also. As an aside, the vacation home in Liberty NY is now under water, a part of a reservoir network in that area I believe.
The idea of “compensation” (barter) makes sense in that era and in Hermon MacNeil’s history of doing that with Inn-keepers in his early years of travel in Italy and Paris .
Thanks to Pat and Tim Orr for sharing heir family history and treasures. They give us insight into Hermon A. MacNeil and their own family
WHO IS DAVE BLUE ?
Another mystery oil painting entitled “Dave Blue,” has surfaced through an inquiry on this website. The work is signed, “H. A. MacNeil SC” in two places.
Patrick Orr wrote from Connecticut,
“IS IT POSSIBLE THAT I HAVE A PAINTING BY H.A. MACNEIL?”
Patrick included several photos from which the detail at your right enlargement below were taken.
In our ongoing correspondence, I explained to Patrick the following:
A. MacNeil often placed the letters “SC” after his signature on works meaning “Sculptor.” This was his standard manner of signing his works. Interesting that he did so to an oil painting as well. See numerous examples on the masthead photos on my website.
B. MacNeil is known to have painted oils. Mostly for fun or gifts. My mother had an oil painting as a wedding gift that he gave her in 1929.
C. You have a unique and interesting piece. Just on the basis of looking at the pictures, I would say there is little reason to doubt that this piece is what it claims to be.
D. I doubt that a forger would bother to make a fake “MacNeil” oil painting.
E. Hermon would sketch when he went places or saw interesting people. He had an artists eye.
I asked Patrick where he got the work:
“The painting belonged to my grandparents, and when they died I asked my uncle if I could have it. I always liked it. I have no idea how they acquired it.”
“My grandparents and their grandparents are from the lower west side of Manhattan. In the 1970s my grandparents moved to CT. I don’t remember any stories unfortunately, but I will ask my mother. They definitely treasured it. Everybody always commented on it.”
“Who was Dave Blue? Did he live in a cave? Was he blind? Was he a freed slave or son of slaves? A mystery and so very intriguing.”
SO, Pat Orr agreed that I could post his “MacNeil Mystery” on my website. The next day another email arrived from Patrick:
“I have some interesting information for you. I spoke with my mother and she said H A MacNeil was a neighbor of my great grandparents in the Catskills. They had a summer house there, and he had one down the road. Apparently, my great grandfather was his doctor. In fact, H A did a bronze bust of my great grandfather which my brother has now at his house. The painting I have was a gift he gave to them.
… Unfortunately, my mom doesn’t know about the history or background of the painting itself. She doesn’t know when or where it was done.”
That fits in with the sticker on the back of the canvas being from a New York art supplier. I can imagine him picking up the canvas in New York, and then taking it with him on his travels and using it to do the study of the old black man.”
SO, the intriging “MacNeil Mystery” remains:
“Dave Blue who lived under the ground.”
Who was Dave Blue?
Did he live in the ground?
Was he blind?
Was he a freed slave or son of slaves?
Maybe we will get responses from other painting owners.
Maybe “Mr. Blue” has some relatives out there.
THANKS PAT, for making us curious.
Hermon MacNeil was the first president of the Clan MacNeil Association of America. This summer, the Galley will contain a feature article about him, written by Dan Leininger, webmaster of this website — HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com.
The previous posting of February 8, 2013, entitled, “MacNeil Kinsman ~ Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Robert Lister MacNeil,” tells part of the story of these two men.
Vicki Sanders Corporon, editor of the Galley, has accepted the article and accompanying photos that tell more of the story. She said in recent correspondence:
“Thanks for sending such excellent photos of Hermon’s sculptures. I know their inclusion, along with your article, will be the highlight of the upcoming issue! He really was one of America’s finest sculptors … how important is your mission to make sure he is fully appreciated!”
Sculpture photos of the Supreme Court (East Pediment); George Washington from the Washington Arch in NYC; Abraham Lincoln from University of Illinois; Ezra Cornell at Ithaca; Confederate Defenders Monument (1932) Charleston harbor, SC; and George Rogers Clark at Vincennes will illustrate the story.
On May 26, 1921, the Clan MacNeil Association of America was organized in New York City. Central to that moment were Robert Lister MacNeil, (The MacNeil of Barra – 45th Chief of the Clan), and Hermon Atkins MacNeil, the clan’s first president.
Stay tuned for more as the publication is released.
Today, February 27, 2014 marks the 148th anniversary of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, born this very day in 1866. So each February, we celebrate “MacNeil Month” in his honor.
In 2010, I formally began searching for “Uncle Hermon” in several ways. First, I built this “digital gallery” of his life and work as a sculptor. HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com is a website dedicated to making his sculpture and career available to the world.
In this virtual gallery you will find over 600 photos and 130 stories of Hermon MacNeil’s life and work. His statues of George Washington from Washington Arch, NYC; Ezra Cornell at Cornell University, William McKinley at Columbus, Ohio; Abraham Lincoln at Champaign, Illinois; Pony Express at St. Joseph, Missouri; Pere Marquette in Chicago; and monuments in Philadelphia, Charleston, Albany, and Flushing, and dozens of other cities can be studied here.
These sculptures, statues, monuments are scattered from Washington, DC to Portland, Oregon, and from New York City to Gallup, New Mexico. A web search of the name “Hermon MacNeil” can bring you here.
HOW DID YOU FIND the Hermon MacNeil website?
Please add comment below. Tell us what brings you here.
Secondly, this year I joined the Clan MacNeil Association of America. I did not know its existence until I saw the 1928 news story of the MacNeil plaque dedication in Red Springs. I have shared MacNeil stories at the annual family reunion of my siblings and our children and grand children. In August 2013 I attended the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Fest in Estes Park. What a great celebration of Celtic pride.
Keep watching as I continue the search and research on Hermon Atkins MacNeil.
We celebrate “MacNeil Month” each February. This February 27, 2014 marks the 148th anniversary of the birth of our patron sculptor, Hermon Atkins MacNeil. During MacNeil Month 2014 here at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com , we will share some biography of Hermon A. MacNeil gleaned from my “search for ‘Uncle Hermon’.”
Hermon Atkins MacNeil ~American Sculptor
MacNeil Clan history, like all family history, is filled with people we have never met. One MacNeil who has always fascinated me is Hermon Atkins MacNeil. Researching “Uncle” Hermon has also led me to another amazing man, Robert Lister MacNeil. Both men were present when the Clan MacNeil Association of America was formed ninety-three years ago.
On May 26, 1921, the Clan MacNeil Association of America was organized in New York City. Central to that moment were Robert Lister MacNeil, (The MacNeil of Barra – 45th Chief of the Clan), and Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a sculptor, who served as the clan’s first president. At that time, Robert Lister was 32 years of age, a practicing architect in New York City, and a veteran of the First World War. He had succeeded to the chiefship of the Clan MacNeil just six years earlier. His dreams of the Isle of Barra and restoring Kisimul Castle (as told in his book The Castle in the Sea) were but faint hopes that would await decades and the efforts of many MacNeils for their accomplishment.
His other kinsman was Hermon Atkins MacNeil. Hermon was the older of the two, an accomplished sculptor, also practicing in New York City, he had already created a myriad of statues, sculptures, monuments, as well as, the U.S. Standing Liberty Quarter first minted in 1916. Although these two MacNeils were 23 years apart in age, they were both trained in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, a school for architects and sculptors in the Classic Greco-Roman styles. A lasting bond between them formed through their shared artistic talents, professional skills, and years of Clan MacNeil activity.
Hermon MacNeil designed a bronze plaque that was unveiled and dedicated on May 28, 1928 on the campus of Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, NC. The plaque commemorated the 1735 landing of Neil MacNeil of Jura, Scotland with 350 followers. This group made up mostly of clan members landed at the Cape Fear Settlement in North Carolina. The plaque was placed on a red granite stone and marked another clan project shared by these two men.
In his later years, Robert Lister stated: “Hermon was an outstanding sculptor and one of my dearest friends all the rest of his life.” In 1970, six years after publishing those words, Robert Lister MacNeil died at the age of 81. Twenty-three years earlier (in 1947), Hermon Atkins MacNeil had died, also at the same age of 81. All of the above was discovered as I “searched for Uncle Hermon.” I never met either of these two MacNeil men. The more I learn of them both, the more striking I find the parallels in their lives.
Upcoming: MacNeil Roots and Pursuits
Several sculptures of Hermon Atkins MacNeil are featured in a current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City continuing through April 13, 2014. The show entitled “The American West in Bronze, 1850-1925” contains three parts: Indians, wild animals, and cowboys.
Three MacNeil works of early Native American images are visible online in an 8 photo slide show of the exhibit. They are apparently part of the “Indians” segment of the show. CLICK HERE for the link to this slide show. The MacNeil works include The Chief of the Multnomah (slide #3 in left background); The Moqui Runner (slide #6 foreground); The Sun Vow (slide #6 right rear).
The exhibit has received some criticism in a NY Times art review entitled “Manifest Destiny at the Point of a Gun” by Ken Johnson. The MacNeil pieces are specifically not mentioned in Johnson’s critique.
(More on Ken Johnson’s comments in the another article.)
“The American West in Bronze, 1850-1925” continues through April 13 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org.