Archive for August, 2010
On a rainy day recently I visited MacNeil’s Pony Express statue in Saint Joseph, Missouri. I took numerous photos. After posting about a half a dozen, I realized that I omitted one rather light-hearted composition from that drizzly photo session. It shows the horse and rider as an over-sized hood ornament on my 1939 LaSalle sedan.
NOTE: No ponies, Express Riders or LaSalles were injured in the making of this picture. No disrespect for the City of St. Joe, the Pony Express, the people of Missouri, the Cadillac Motor Division of General Motors (manufacturer of LaSalle automobiles from 1923 to 1940), or any other persons (living or deceased) is intended in the making of this picture. It was just a twitch of the finger that seemed a good idea at the time (just as posting it on a Wednesday evening at 10PM right now feels like the right thing to do! )
Ninety-four years after its first minting, the MacNeil “Standing Liberty quarter” retains a strong following among coin collectors. Tom LaMarre of Coins Magazine calls it MacNeil’s “real masterpiece.”
That says a lot coming from a coin expert like LaMarre. In a fascinating article at NumisMaster.com, he offers the usual numismatic history of the SLQ mixed with new information and delightful humor. The author has studied enough about MacNeil to mention about a dozen of his other works in the article including, “Sun Vow”, “Pony Express”, and “Ezra Cornell.” So, the “real masterpiece” compliment seems more than just another ‘two-bit’ comment. Some of LaMarre’s words which laud MacNeil’s Standing Liberty quarter include:
“Rich in symbolism and finely engraved detail, the new quarter reflected the spirit of peace and preparedness just before the United States entered World War I. It also revived a classical style in sharp contrast to the abstract and modern trends that were sweeping the art world at that time.”
LaMarre gives a thorough history of the design development, the changes, the controversies and the over-involvement of the Director of the Mint. A previous post on this website describes Jay H. Cline’s research book on the Standing Liberty Quarter includes nearly forty pages of letters between MacNeil and the Mint. LaMarre, finds this humorous quote on the over-involvement Mr Woolley in MacNeil’s project:
Mint Director Robert W. Woolley was so involved overseeing the preparation of the quarter design at the Mint that the Gettysburg Times predicted it would be known as the “Woolley quarter” or simply the “Woolley.”
The article offers some details of MacNeil history not seen before. He gives a discussion of the two women who served as models for the MacNeil’s art, namely Doris Doscher and Irene MacDowell. I had not known that Doris Doscher went public with her role in the SLQ on the TV show “I’ve Got A Secret” (or click HERE for second link).
Coin Collectors, especially SLQ fans and MacNeil enthusiasts alike, will enjoy Tom LaMarre’s article “MacNeil’s Standing Liberty Remains a Favorite.” It summarizes the importance of this art piece for collectors, it’s fascinating history, and MacNeil’s persistent creativity in developing the SLQ. LaMarre states:
The Standing Liberty quarter had a sculptural quality that set it apart from all previous quarter dollars. The Numismatist described it as “strikingly beautiful.” The New York Times called it a “silvern beauty.”
Coin collectors looking for more can graduate to Jay Cline’s book on Liberty Quarters. Cline’s book devotes Chapter 5 to telling the story of the two models that posed.
Either way the coin provides in interesting study in history, art and human nature. Treasury officials, namely Secretary William MacAdoo, had concerns about MacNeil’s delicate engraving not wearing as well in circulation as less artistic coin images of the past. But numismatists fine the delicate piece simply a treasure. Again LaMarre offers a good twist:
According to the Treasury secretary, it was a “fast-wearing” design that never quite worked out. In the opinion of collectors, it is a masterpiece that will stand in beauty forever.
A photograph of the Confederate Defenders of Charleston sculpture autographed by Hermon A. MacNeil has been purchased from the on-line inventory of Steven L. Roskins, a dealer in historic autographs in Venice, Florida. The statue, dedicated on October 20, 1932 is Located in the White Point Gardens overlooking Charleston Harbor. The statue faces toward the Ft Sumter National Park located at the mouth of Charleston Harbor about 3 1/2 miles east southeast of the MacNeil statue and White Point Gardens. The Fort was the site of the opening battle of the American Civil War on April 12-13, 1861.
The photograph is inscribed to noted American artist Charles C. Curran. He and MacNeil were Jurors in numerous art expositions through the years. Acclaimed as an painter, Curran is saluted here by MacNeil with this visual image of his own Confederate Memorial sculpture.
The photo appears to be taken in a studio (probably MacNeil’s in College Point on Long Island, New York). The backdrop is a draping. The little sentry soldier propped up at the base left seems a curious addition. Perhaps, it has some special meaning between MacNeil and Curran. We do not know. We do know that the little sleeping sentry is not part of the monument after installation in Charleston. The transport of the entire bronze piece and marble base to Charleston, SC and its subsequent installation White Point Gardens represents a monumental task as well. (See Google Map link below)
The autographed inscription at the photo bottom reads, “To Charles C. Curran – The Wise War Horse in Art. ~ H.A. MacNeil, S.C.” The photo reverse (not shown) bears MacNeil’s further handwritten notation and second signature, “Study. Defensive Monument, Sumter Park, Charleston, S.C. H.A. MacNeil, S.C. 1931.” At the center of the back is a stamped mark, “The Capitol Photo Studios, 617 – 2nd Avenue, College Point, L[ong] I[sland].”
For another unusual photo of the Statue installed at in South Carolina go to Confederate Defenders Statue – Battery Park
Visit this Sculpture by Hermon A. MacNeil
In the heart of downtown Saint Joseph, Missouri the “Pony Express Rides Again.”
Hermon A. MacNeil’s massive 1940 Sculpture has been heading ‘west’ out of town since its installation at the origin of historic Pony Express trail across Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, to California.
Visit this Sculpture by Hermon A. MacNeil
The East Pediment of the Supreme Court of the United States designed and sculpted by Hermon A. MacNeil contains the likenesses of three Lawgivers from the history of civilization: Moses, Confucius, and Solon. According to the Office of the Curator in a public INFORMATION SHEET:
“Visitors often miss the East Pediment of the Supreme Court Building because it is located at the rear of the building. This sculptural group was designed by Hermon A. MacNeil (1866 – 1947), an artist who studied under the masters of classical architecture and design. Cass Gilbert (1867 – 1934), the building’s architect, worked closely with MacNeil from 1932 to 1934 to create the thirteen symmetrically balanced allegorical figures. MacNeil submitted the following description of his work to the Supreme Court Building Commission:”
“Law as an element of civilization was normally and naturally derived or inherited in this country from former civilizations. The “Eastern Pediment” of the Supreme Court Building suggests therefore the treatment of such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived from the East.
- Moses, Confucius and Solon are chosen as representing three great civilizations and form the central group of this Pediment.
- Flanking this central group – left – is the symbolical figure bearing the means of enforcing the law. On the right a group tempering justice with mercy, allegorically treated. The “Youth” is brought into both these groups to suggest the “Carrying on” of civilization through the knowledge imbibed of right and wrong.
The next two figures with shields;
- Left – The settlement of disputes between states through enlightened judgment.
- Right – Maritime and other large functions of the Supreme Court in protection of the United States.
The last figures:
- Left – Study and pondering of judgments.
- Right – A tribute to the fundamental and supreme character of this Court. Finale – The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.” See May 26th post at: http://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2010/05/29/tortoise-and-hare-taken-to-supreme-court/
The inscription on the East Pediment – Justice the Guardian of Liberty – is one of the few decisions regarding the architecture of the building that was made directly by one of the Justices. On May 2,1932, David Lynn, the Architect of the Capitol, sent Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes a letter with Cass Gilbert’s suggestions for the East and West Pediment inscriptions. The Chief Justice agreed with the suggested inscription for the West Pediment, Equal Justice Under Law, but did not like the one proposed for the East Pediment, Equal Justice is the Foundation of Liberty. Chief Justice Hughes sent a note (below) with a suggestion for a different inscription to Justice Willis Van Devanter, the only Justice beside Hughes and his predecessor, Chief Justice William Howard Taft, to serve on the Supreme Court Building Commission. Justice Van Devanter responded with a succinct reply: “Good (W.V.)” A few days later, the Chief Justice formally answered Lynn’s request by providing the alternate inscription, stating simply “We think that the inscription for the East Portico can be improved.”
The East Pediment by Hermon A. MacNeil – Office of the Curator • Supreme Court of the United States
Source: Office of the Curator, Supreme Court of the United States – Updated: 5/22/2003
For additional critical discussion on the Supreme Court Building sculptures related to Moses as a law giver see:
Visit the HA MacNeil‘s “Justice The Guardian of Liberty” at the East Pediment of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
On a recent trip to Saint Louis, Missouri to visit family, I was met by not by “Louis” but by “Hermon”
For the last 106 years (since the Worlds Fair inspired the song “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis”) a sculpture by Hermon A. MacNeil has been quietly greeting visitors at the front door of the St Louis Art Museum. The piece resides high above the center doors at the main entrance of the building.
The building itself represents one of MacNeil’s first collaborations of with renowned architect, Cass Gilbert. His last project with Cass Gilbert was the US Supreme Court Building in 1933.
The Cass Gibert Society website offers images of his lifetime of architectural achievements.
The Saint Louis World’s Fair of 1904 was formally known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. It was an international exposition commemorating the Louisiana purchase of 1803. It was delayed from a planned opening in 1903 to 1904 to allow for the full-scale participation by more states and foreign countries. The song, “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis” was inspired by the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair.
The Palace of Fine Art, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, featured a grand interior sculpture court based on the Roman Baths of Caracalla. Standing at the top of Art Hill, it now serves as the home of the Saint Louis Art Museum. … Gilbert was also responsible for … (Saint Louis Public Library), state capitol buildings (the Minnesota, Arkansas and West Virginia State Capitols, for example) as well as public architectural icons like the United States Supreme Court building. His public buildings in the Beaux Arts style reflect the optimistic American sense that the nation was heir to Greek democracy, (Wikipedia).
The MacNeil work was a part of that “Palace of Fine Art” and his abilities in the Beaux Arts style seemed to seal his collaborative link to many projects grown from Cass Gilbert’s genius. The inscription “ARS ARTIUM OMNIUM” translates literally from the Latin as “the Art of all Arts.”
Above the columns of the Saint Louis Art Museum are inscribed the words, “DEDICATED TO ART AND FREE TO ALL – MDCDIII.” That Free to All spirit remains today in that admission is free through a subsidy from the ZMD.
A New York Times article offers editorial on “free art” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/arts/design/22admi.html?_r=1
This interesting photo of a MacNeil sculpture surfaced in a recent internet search. Grandmother Starmer and her little friend ‘Flat Abby’ are pictured visiting MacNeil’s “Confererate Defenders of Charleston” monument. No photo of this sculpture has been previously posted on this website. Located in Charleston, South Carolina, this statue was completed in 1931 and dedicated in October 1932. At that time surviving Civil War Veterans would have been over 80 years of age. The location at White Point Gardens and the Battery was first used as a public garden in 1837. With the outbreak of the Civil War, it became a fortification for the city, a Battery. Today, you will also find an impressive display of weaponry used to shell and defend the city.
On a more light hearted note, We have the statue pictured with “Flat Abby” some 143 years later. According to Grandmother’s blog, “Flat Abby arrived in Charleston, SC to visit us, Grandmother and Grandfather Starmer, in late October 2004, just in time for Halloween.” The posting, they tell me, was a ‘fun project’ done six years ago for their granddaughter, Abby. The blog continues with a historical tour of Beauregard House, antebellum home of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and other delightful sites of the city. Grandfather and Grandmother Starmer offer a wonderful travelers guide for young and old alike in their ‘Adventures with Flat Abby’. (It is amazing what ‘grandparenting’ does to otherwise, regular human beings. – including this Webmaster). For more details and history see their blog at: http://frank.itlab.us/flat_abby/
We thank Abby’s ‘Grandfather’ (Frank Starmer) and Grandmother for permission to use their 2004 photo of this MacNeil piece. (Hermon would have smiled too!)
In coming weeks the webmaster will post another photo of this work as it was first displayed in H. A. MacNeil’s studio at College Point, Long Island, New York in 1931. More later.