MacNeil’s “Lawyer Lincoln” at Spurlock MuseumBy
This past Friday I stopped at Spurlock Museum on the University of Illinois campus to see the newly refurbished bust of Abraham Lincoln that will return to the renovated Lincoln Hall in 2012.
Holly Koreb, Senior Director, and Dave Evensen, both from the Office of Communications and Marketing at U of I’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, met me at the museum for a guided viewing and photos. She sent the photo of me and Abe added below. That is Abe on the left. Thanks, Holly!
(And BTW, Hermon A. MacNeil was my 1st Cousin twice removed. But since he considered himself my mother’s Uncle Hermon and I think he was Great, I now consider him my Great Uncle Hermon.) Back to the Lawyer Lincoln statue …
Beautifully restored and on public display at the Spurlock Museum. “H. A. MacNeil” is the signature on the left hand side of this Lincoln Bust. “Roman Bronze Works” is the foundry mark in small letters on the left rear corner
Examining MacNeil’s creation up close was a true thrill. The restoration is beautifully done. The rich brown patina gives the piece a radiance that has not been seen in half a century or more.
The chance to find and record the MacNeil signature and foundry markings (see below) were a rare treat that will prove impossible in the bust’s niche at Lincoln Hall.
The display panel at the Spurlock states, in part:
The bust, by Hermon A. MacNeil, depicts Lincoln as a young lawyer with his arms folded holding a legal document in his right hand. It was based on a full figured piece that MacNeil had submitted to the Art Commission of Illinois in a 1914 competition seeking a statue for the city of Springfield.
Although the design was not chosen, MacNeil cast eight busts from the upper part of the sculpture. In this special exhibit it is possible for the first time to view the bust outside its niche. You can see MacNeil’s fine work from all sides before it is returned to Lincoln Hall in 2012.
Lincoln the Lawyer , as depicted in Macneil’s sculpture, is one the least known aspects of this great American, BUT probably the BEST place to appreciate his skills, character and talents as a human being. A segment of an article from American History Magazine tells the ‘Lawyer – Lincoln’ story in this way:
Abraham Lincoln spent only four of his 56 years as president of the United States. Yet, given the importance of the events that marked his 1861-65 term of office, the nation’s admiration for him as a man of courage and principle, and the abundance of photographic images that recorded his presidency, it is hard for most people to think of him as anything else. But there were other facets to the career of this man who led the nation through the Civil War years. Prior to his presidency, Lincoln honed his political skills and aspirations through the practice of law.
“The bulk of Lincoln’s courtroom work took place away from Springfield as he traveled twice a year with the presiding judge and fellow lawyers to the county seats of Illinois’ Eighth Circuit Court. Since most of those who served on the juries in these small towns were farmers and other country folk, Lincoln–himself a product of a rural environment and by nature a slow talker–recognized the need to argue his cases in the simplest and most straightforward manner. As one observer noted, ‘his illustrations were often quaint and homely, but always clear and apt, and generally conclusive. . . . His wit and humor and inexhaustible store of anecdotes, always to the point, added immensely to his powers as a jury advocate.’” (Abraham Lincoln: The Lawyer. American History | Published: June 12, 2006 at 8:02 pm. CLICK HERE to see entire article )
History records that Abraham Lincoln traveled the Eighth Circuit of Illinois for nearly a quarter of a century. He stood and spoke to citizens in courtrooms involving over 5000 cases ranging from sensational murder cases to the less glamorous issues of property ownership. (Adapted from David Wiegers, Gurnee, Illinois in his comments on Larado Taft’s standing Lincoln statue in Urbana, Illinois )
- Amherst College, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002 Accession Number: S.1932.4
- University of Pennsylvania, Office of the Curator, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Control_Number: 77001611
- Beloit College, Wright Museum of Art, Beloit, Wisconsin – Control_Number: 75008855
- Amherst College, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts: Control_Number: 20090014
Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum ~ SIRIS
For an archive of Lincoln Bust postings click here:
- “Honest Abe” On Public Display ~ MacNeil Month #7 (15.4) At the University of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln has been released…
- Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln! ~ MacNeil’s Sculpture Released from Vault ~ MacNeil Month #4 (14.3)Abe Lincoln will be a little late for his 202nd…
- MacNeil Bust of Lincoln Stored in Vault (13.5) Hermon Atkins MacNeil would probably be amused to know that…