Archive for February, 2012
Abe Lincoln is helping celebrate Hermon A. MacNeil’s birthday on February 27th of this week. The sculptor was born in 1866 in Chelsea, Mass nearly ten months after Mr. Lincoln was assassinated.
Actually, the statue’s festive hat shown here was for the 100th birthday of the Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois where the restored sculpture has been displayed for the last year.
This week the Abe Lincoln will be moved by university officials (not the Statue Liberation Society as in 1979 – CLICK HERE). After March 1st the bust will be set into place in the refurbished Lincoln Hall.
Only three days remain to see the restored statue of Abraham Lincoln in-the-round, the way Hermon MacNeil sculpted it.
MacNeil’s Abe Lincoln bust of the clean-shaven Illinois lawyer, senator and orator has become a beloved icon of Campus history. The MacNeil work of Lincoln will continue to greet students, visitors and staff from central prominence in the spiral stairway. It gives dramatic focus to the Main Entrance of the Hall named for this favorite son.
The relocation will add the ‘crowning’ touch to the Main Lobby. Once again, MacNeil’s ‘Lawyer Lincoln’ will look out from his perch in the circular stairwell.
In traveling through Champaign-Urbana, the Spurlock Museum was open last Saturday. I made some poor-quality video of the statue in its 360 degree perspective and viewed again the MacNeil signature and ‘Roman Bronze Works’ marking on the rear of the piece.
MacNeil’s Lincoln, unlike most sculptures of him, is the ‘Lawyer Lincoln.’ Mr. Lincoln’s thirty-years in Illinois were the formative experiences that prepared him to be the statesman and leader of world-renown that he became as U.S. President during the preservation of the Union. (See the Feb 12th posting below)
Time is running out to see the refurbished Abraham Lincoln statue in-the-round, the way Hermon MacNeil sculpted it.
We are told that the Spurlock Museum’s exhibit may end this spring or early summer. The restored piece by Hermon A. MacNeil will return to the pristinely resurrected Lincoln Hall. The relocation awaits the completion of the Main Lobby of the newly refurbished Hall.
Once again, MacNeil’s ‘Lawyer Lincoln’ will returned to his perch in the niche of the circular stairway.
Last time I traveled through Champaign, the Spurlock Museum was closed for the Christmas-New Year holidays. I wanted to video the statue in its 360 degree perspective and rephotograph the MacNeil signature and ‘Roman Bronze Works’ marking on the rear of the piece.
MacNeil’s Lincoln, unlike most sculptures of him, is the ‘Lawyer Lincoln.’ He is clean-shaven, no beard, no ‘Mr. President Lincoln.’
This is THE Abe Lincoln of the ‘Land of Lincoln:’
- Who came to Macon County in 1830 and build his father’s cabin.
- Who would live in Illinois for the next 30 years.
- Who settled in New Salem in 1831 to manage the mill.
- Who volunteered with the Sangamon County company going to the Indian war in 1832.
- Who returned to be appointed Postmaster of New Salem.
- Who was elected to the State Legislature in 1834, 1836, 1838 and 1840.
- Who courted Ann Rutledge, who died of ‘brain fever’ in 1835.
- Who moved to the new Capitol in Springfield in 1837 to enter the practice of LAW with John T. Stuart.
- Who Married Mary Todd of Kentucky in 1842.
- Who was elected to Congress as a Whig in 1848.
- Who traveled from Springfield by horseback across the County Seats of the Illinois Eighth Circuit Court.
- Who argued over 5000 cases ranging from murder to boundary disputes
- Who spoke in a simple and straightforward manner understandable by any farmer or citizen on the jury.
- Whose quaint, homely stories were often filled with wit and humor and that made the point clearly.
- Who campaigned for the the US Senate denouncing Stephen Douglas’ “popular sovereignty” doctrine.
- Who received 110 ballots for nomination as Vice-President at the 1856 Republican National Convention.
- Who delivered his “House Divided” speech at the Republican State convention of 1858.
- Who challenged his opponent, Stephen Douglas, to seven debates across the state of Illinois in the 1858 Senatorial campaign.
- Who from 1858 to 1860 made speeches throughout many states defining the Republican Party’s position.
- Who won the Republican Party nomination and was elected President of the United States in 1860.
- Who left Illinois after 30 years to seek to keep those same States “United.”
- Whose body was returned to Illinois in 1865 for entombment in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield”
- “Now he belongs to the Ages”
The screen capture (below) shows a frame from the 1929 silent movie “The Medal Maker.” This photo frame shows four presidents of the National Sculpture Society who were also “Medal Makers” presenting the NSS‘s ‘Special Award Medal’ to Daniel Chester French (center). French (1850-1931) died just 2 years after this video was made. The making of the Medal by Laura Gardin Fraser is told in “The Medal Maker” (see cover at right).
Three of these sculptors (Fraser, Weinman and MacNeil) had already redesigned US Coinage. They created the Buffalo Nickel (JEF), the Liberty [Mercury] Dime & Walking Liberty Half-Dollar (AAW), and the Standing Liberty Quarter (HAM).
Below are Society of Medalists creations and stories from each sculptor on some of their medal making. (The SOM medal images below are from the collection of the webmaster, Daniel Neil Leininger.)
All five sculptors contributed to the “Society of Medalists” series of the Medallic Arts Company started in 1930, one year after this video was made. Laura Gardin Fraser, the maker of the NSS Special Award Medal, is the fifth medal maker featured here. She also sculpted the SOM#1, First Issue of the entire SOM series. Her NSS Award Medal (100mm or 4 inches) is featured below also.
- James Earl Fraser (1876-1953) ~ SOM #45 “The Pony Express” and “New Frontiers” 1952″ James Earle Fraser was the husband of Laura Gardin Fraser and 13 years her senior. He chose historic images of the west, namely, the “Pony Express” and the oxen-drawn “Covered Wagon.” He stated that the Covered Wagon was a childhood image that he remembered from his childhood in South Dakota and Minnesota.
- Adolph Alex Weinman (1870-1952). ~ SOM#39 ~ 1949 ~ “Genesis” and “Web of Destiny.” Weinman offers the following description of his inspiration for this piece:
- “… for ‘Genesis’, look up chapter one in your Bible, I could not say it nearly as well. As to the ‘Web of Destiny’, that should be easily interpreted. The little fellow is Eros, who can perform more miracles in guiding the strands of destiny than any power known to man.” (J.E.F. -SOM #39)
- Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966). Her sculpture of the National Sculpture Society special award medal is the subject of the “Medal Maker” film/video. The presentation of the medal to French by the four past-presidents of the NSS is also recorded in that film.
- AE Medal of National Sculpture Society, Medallic Art Co., United States, 1929-1929. 1997.62.1
- Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) – “Hopi” and “Prayer for Rain” SOM #31 ~ 1931. Based on MacNeil’s “Moqui (Hopi) Runner” of 1897, this was the only SOM medal that he would sculpt.
- For his lengthy explanation of the theme he chose, see this website: “Medals4Trade”
- MacNeil’s brief intro to the medal is as follows: “The two incidents of the Hopi Prayer for Rain on the mesas of northeastern Arizona depicted on this medal are chosen by your sculptor because of the extraordinary vital enthusiasm and power that the Indians throw into this ceremony. Having witnessed it and been thrilled by the intensity of their emotion and on further study by the complicated and perfectly natural development of this drama, I cannot help feel that in it we find a basic note underlying all religions. All these Southwest Indians, living as they do in an arid region, have developed their religion along the lines of their greatest need –water.”
- Herbert Adams (1858-1945)~ SOM #009 ~ The Prize and The Little Shiner 1934
- “Oh What Are the Prizes We Perish to Win” (on obverse), “To the First Little Shiner We Caught with a Pin” (on reverse). Numbers Issued: 1,207 Bronze, 100 Silver.
The words that Adams placed on the medal are translation of the two lines from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem, “Song of a Piece of Eight”, ~ He made the medal eight-sided (as a piece-of-eight) reminiscent of the pirate poem “Oh what are the prizes we perish to win. To the first little ‘shiner’ we caught with a pin.”
ALL FOUR MEN in the photo (excluding Daniel Chester French) would become Medal Makers for the SOM Series. The Society of Medalists series (begun in 1930 after this photo of 1929) was created by Medallic Art Company. It enlisted sculptors for the next 65 years. That list would read like the Who’s Who of Sculptors (American and otherwise) from 1930 to 1995.
- LAURA GARDIN FRASER was “The Medal Maker” featured in this film by that same name. I imagine that she was present for the presentation of the medal to French. She made numerous other medals (George Washington Bicentennial Medal 1932, Gilbert Stuart It seems ironic that her husband, James Earle Fraser, is admiring the medal and explaining some of her technique with the other sculptors. It is likely that Carol Brooks MacNeil was also present at the event. Women, however, were not in leadership in her era.
February is “MacNeil Month at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com
Feb 27th, 2012 is the 146th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth.
Hermon MacNeil’s “Coming of the White Man” sculpture in Portland, OR, appears to be the most popular postcard of all his statues.
Hermon A. MacNeil’s “Coming of the White Man” in Portland Oregon has an interesting story of the boulder-like stone that forms its base. This postcard image from Gib Shell shows the enormous granite stone on which MacNeil placed the statue.
The story, as I read it from a newspaper interview from about 1905, went like this. MacNeil was very particular about how his sculptures were mounted. Many of them were placed on bases that he made as a special part of the piece. The Marquette-Jolliet-Illini grouping in Chicago, the “Confederate Defenders” statue in Charleston each have stone bases with carvings, words, and art details that compliment the piece.
MacNeil wanted a stone base that fit into the wooded setting of Washington Park (Plaza Park) in Portland,Oregon. The site for the statue, I am told, overlooks the Columbia River to the East. The Native American pair [a Chief of the Multnomah, and the Medicine Man (scout)] look into the river valley and spy the first White explorers coming to their region. MacNeil portrays the Chief as tall, proud, and serene, while the Medicine Man is aroused, eager, and excited. [See: " If MacNeil’s “Chiefs” Could Speak, What would They tell us Today? ].
MacNeil considered the cost of shipping a stone from New York. He decided it would cost too much. But he knew what he wanted in a stone. So he made a plaster model (that is what sculptors do). The model was 1/3 the size of the stone that he wanted. Then he shipped it with the statue to Portland. He sent instructions that a stone be found sufficient for a base.
When the statue arrived in Portland, Hermon came and found that no one had looked for a stone as he requested. So he took his 1/3 plaster model, put it in a boat and traveled up the Columbia River to a granite quarry about 20 miles up river. Leaving his plaster model in the boat, he went to the quarry and found a piece of granite sufficient to shape for a natural looking base. Finding a suitable stone, he had it transported to a barge and them brought up the river. At the foot of the hill where the statue was to be placed, it took a four horse team to pull the stone up the hill (this was 1904 remember).
MacNeil must have sculpted the base on site. It bears the name of the statue and the information on the donor. When looking at a sculpture I seldom take time to consider the base, pedestal, or the setting in which the sculptor, artist, architect may have placed it. I hope MacNeil’s story adds to your curiosity and appreciation of his work.