WELCOME to the “Hermon A. MacNeil” — Virtual Gallery & Museum !

~ Welcome to the virtual Gallery that celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American sculptor of the Beaux Arts School. Over 120 stories and 600 photos create this digital museum / classroom. MacNeil led a generation of American sculptors in capturing many fading Native American images in the realism of this classic style. He also designed and sculpted for World's Fairs, public monuments, coins, and buildings across to country. [ Over 50 hot-links on the lower right columns lead to photos and information about various works by MacNeil. ]
~ At HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com, we celebrate his work 24/7.
~ Each February is "MacNeil Month" to honor his birth on February 27, 1866.

Visit MacNeil’s Monuments & Sculptures All Around Us!

Enjoy works of H.A. MacNeil here, at home, on vacation, wherever...
-- Use CATEGORY list below (Location, Expos, World Fairs ...)
-- Google Maps show location of sculptures!
-- Click on "Public Sculptures of H.A.MacNeil" to see photos.
-- Study & Leave COMMENTS at the bottom of any Posting.

Archive for Illinois

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 Galley" Spring/Summer 2013; Clan MacNeil Association of America

“The Galley” Spring/Summer 2013; Official Publication of the Clan MacNeil Association of America

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. 

HAM-Lincoln-bust-plaster-full

Finishing touches clean the marble niche where MacNeil’s Lincoln bust will greet Illini students in Lincoln Hall

A 1958 photo of lawyer Abe Lincoln as he appeared at the time of the debates with Senator Stephen Douglas

A 1958 photo of lawyer Abe Lincoln (with NO beard) as he appeared at the time of the debates with Senator Stephen Douglas and as MacNeil portrayed him.

Hermon MacNeil’s bronze bust of self-educated Illinois Lawyer Abe Lincoln was returned to its gloriously restored niche in Lincoln Hall on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana to begin its second century on the Illinois Circuit of higher education.

The Smithsonian Institute archives contain this photo of MacNeil's Lincoln standing.

MacNeil’s standing Lincoln model from the Smithsonian Institute photo archives. The piece was made for a commission competition after 1906.

MacNeil originally sculpted a full length, standing model of the Illinois Lawyer that he later re-sculpted as a bust. From that piece he had Roman Bronze Works make eight castings of his Lincoln Lawyer. In 1928 at the recommendation of Lorado Taft, the University of Illinois purchased this one of the MacNeil sculptures of the younger Lincoln

In 1929, MacNeil’s work provided an iconic centerpiece for the Grand Stairway foyer of newly designed building.  On February 12, 2012, the restored bust was returned to its original niche, in the beautifully renovated Lincoln Hall.

For MORE history on the “Lawyer Lincoln” CLICK HERE

PHOTOS and MORE:  The lead photo above and three photos below are from the website of the Lincoln Hall Renovation (CLICK HERE) project at the University of Illinois.  They show the re-installation of MacNeil’s work.  The University has now completed the $66.4 million dollar restoration (Fact Sheet) of Lincoln Hall.  [SEE MORE MacNeil-Lincoln history below the photos]:

MacNeil's restored bust of young Abe Lincoln was bolted to a marble plate that could be cemented into place.

MacNeil’s restored bust of young Abe Lincoln was bolted to a marble plate that could be cemented into place.

 

The work crew of masons set the MacNeil's Lincoln bust back into the niche at the Grand Staircase of Lincoln Hall

The work crew of masons set the MacNeil’s Lincoln bust back into the niche at the Grand Staircase of Lincoln Hall

HAM-Lincoln-bust-sweep-full

A worker sweeps the marble stairs of Lincoln Hall foyer as photographers get set to record the return of Hermon MacNeil’s bust of young Lawyer Abe Lincoln to its perch where a second century of Illini students will pass by.

Art and museum records locate four of MacNeil’s eight “Lincoln Lawyer” castings. the  others “Lincoln Lawyer” busts by MacNeil appear incomplete as follows:

The fact that MacNeil made a “Lincoln Lawyer” statue was catalogued 60 years ago, along with the Lincoln likenesses sculpted by over 125 other sculptors.   Donald Charles Durman assembled a “List of Sculptures of Abraham Lincoln” in his 1951 book, “He Belongs to the Ages: The Statues of Abraham Lincoln” (published by Edwards Brothers, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1951).  The Smithsonian American Art Museum inventory lists only 3 locations of MacNeil’s other Lincoln busts.  The University of Illinois bust of Lincoln is NOT listed among them.  Thus, four of the eight are documented publicly.  The Smithsonian records indicate the following listings:
  1. University of Pennsylvania, Office of the Curator, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Control_Number: 77001611
  2. Beloit College, Wright Museum of Art, Beloit, Wisconsin – Control_Number: 75008855
  3. Amherst College, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts: Control_Number: 20090014
  4. Amherst College, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002 Accession Number: S.1932.4            Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum ~ SIRIS
Thomas (Tom) Henry McNeil (b. 1860 - d. 1932)

Thomas (Tom) Henry McNeil (b. 1860 – d. 1932)

Hermon Atkins MacNeil (b. 1866 - d. 1947)

Hermon Atkins MacNeil (b. 1866 – d. 1947)

Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) and Thomas Henry McNeil (1860-1932) were cousins. They shared a common grandfather, Peter McNeil (1786-1847).
Hermon is the sculptor celebrated on this website.Thomas (Tom Henry) was my grandfather. My mother, Ollie Francis McNeil, always referred to Hermon as “Uncle Hermon”. Their parents wanted her (and her sisters and brother) to do that out of respect.

Hermon was more correctly their “first cousin, once removed”.  But “Uncle” seems both easier and more respectful.  Hermon would be my “first cousin, twice removed” [ see ancestry chart below ].

HAM-THM-chartDNL

The MacNeil Cousins share a common grandfather, Peter MacNeil, who is my great-great-grandfather.

MacNeil of Barra tartan

MacNeil of Barra tartan

Tom Henry was born in Missouri, near Burdette in Bates County. He graduated from the University of Michigan.  He played football there as the first starting quarterback in consecutive seasons. He practiced as a lawyer for Kansas City Railways Company, and in later years, he was responsible for making accident reports to the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Public Service Commission of Missouri. He died in 1932.

Hermon was born in Everett (Chelsea, Malden) Mass.  In 1886 he graduated from Normal Art School in Boston (now Mass Art).  He moved to Cornell University, New York, until 1889, leaving to study in Paris as a pupil of Henri M. Chapu and Alexandre Falguière. He sculpted in Chicago from 1891-1895, at the Columbian World Exposition (1893 Chicago World’s Fair) meeting Carol Brooks (also a sculptor).  They married on Christmas Day 1895 and sailed days later for Rome (1895-99). Following another year in Paris (1899-1900), they settled in New York City building a home and studio in College Point, Long Island.  He worked and lived there until his death in 1947.

FOR MORE read:

Dan Leininger

Daniel Neil Leininger, webmaster, HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com

 

Lincoln Bible and king Bible as Barack Obama takes Oath (http://www.theyeshivaworld.com)

Lincoln Bible and king Bible as Barack Obama takes Oath (http://www.theyeshivaworld.com)

On this Presidential Inaugural Day, the 57th in our history, President Barack H. Obama will take the Oath of the Office of President of the United States.  He will place his hand on two Bibles.  One used by President Abraham Lincoln,  and a second belonging to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, whose birthday is also celebrated on this today.  This Inaugural Day comes fifty years after M. L. King spoke at the Civil Rights March at the Lincoln Memorial and 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

THEREFORE, in tribute to this historic day, we offer images of the three Presidents of the United States that Hermon Atkins MacNeil sculpted in his lifetime ~~ George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley.

Washington and 'Valor' in profile

Washington and ‘Valor’ in profile

General George Washington with Flags (U.S. and POW/MIA) ~ Washington Arch Greenwich, NYC (Photo courtesy of: Gibson Shell - 2011)

A visit to Illinois last week included a stop at the Abe Lincoln bust at Spurlock Museum  at U of I.  The sculpture will no longer be viewable in-the-round after being returned to its permanent home in the sparklingly-restored Lincoln Hall on campus.

A visit to Illinois in 2011 included a stop at the Abe Lincoln bust at Spurlock Museum at U of I. The sculpture will no longer be viewable in-the-round after being returned to its permanent home in the sparklingly-restored Lincoln Hall on campus

MacNeil originally sculpted a standing model of the Illinois Lawyer that he later re-sculpted as a bust.  From that piece he had Roman Bronze Works make eight castings of his Lincoln Lawyer.  This one is at the University of Illinois and will be returned to the Lincoln Hall when renovation is completed.  (For more on Lincoln busts see below.)

The Smithsonian Institute archives contain this photo of MacNeil's Lincoln standing.

The Smithsonian Institute archives contain this photo of MacNeil’s Lincoln standing.

Hearmon A. MacNeil's "Lincoln Lawyer" at the University of Illinois

Hermon A. MacNeil’s “Lincoln Lawyer” at the University of Illinois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McKinley Statue in Columbus, Ohio.

McKinley making his last public speech. before he was assassinated, Buffalo, New York, September 5, 1901. (His pose in this photo resembles that of MacNeil's statue of him in 1904). (Credit: Frances B. Johnson-Ohio Historical Society-AL00501)

McKinley making his last public speech. before he was assassinated, Buffalo, New York, September 5, 1901. (His pose in this photo resembles that of MacNeil’s statue of him in 1904). (Credit: Frances B. Johnson-Ohio Historical Society-AL00501)

MacNeil's McKinley at Ohio Statehouse plaza

MacNeil’s McKinley at Ohio Statehouse plaza

 

 

MORE on MacNEIL’s BUSTS of LINCOLN: Art and museum records locate four of MacNeil’s eight “Lincoln Lawyer” castings.  Public records of the four other “Lincoln Lawyer” busts by MacNeil appear to be incomplete according to the following documentation by the Smithsonian Museum:

The fact that MacNeil made a “Lincoln Lawyer” statue was catalogued 60 years ago, along with the Lincoln likenesses sculpted by over 125 other sculptors.   Donald Charles Durman assembled a “List of Sculptures of Abraham Lincoln” in his 1951 book, “He Belongs to the Ages: The Statues of Abraham Lincoln” (published by Edwards Brothers, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1951).  The Smithsonian American Art Museum inventory lists only 3 locations of MacNeil’s other Lincoln busts.  The University of Illinois bust of Lincoln is NOT listed among them.  Thus, four of the eight are documented publicly.  The Smithsonian records indicate the following listings:
  1. University of Pennsylvania, Office of the Curator, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Control_Number: 77001611
  2. Beloit College, Wright Museum of Art, Beloit, Wisconsin – Control_Number: 75008855
  3. Amherst College, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts: Control_Number: 20090014
  4. Amherst College, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002 Accession Number: S.1932.4

Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum ~ SIRIS

~ Christmas Day 1895 ~

In 1895, Amy Aldis Bradley wrote of Hermon MacNeil:

“…The young sculptor was married on Christmas Day, and sailed for Rome on Wednesday, and is, on the whole, the most happy young man I know. (http://marquette.macfound.org/slide/herman-macneil/ )

One hundred and seventeen years ago today,  Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Carol Louise Brooks were united in marriage in Chicago, Illinois by Rev. Edward F. Williams, a Congregational Minister.  They purchased their Marriage License on Christmas Eve Day 1895. [CLICK HERE to See their License]

HAM-sketch-CD3Both Hermon and Carol were sculptors who worked on the 1983 Chicago World’s Fair (World’s Columbian Exposition).  Just days earlier MacNeil received word that he had won the Rinehart Roman Scholarship.  (Carol had also studied sculpture with both Lorado Taft and Frederick William MacMonnies).  Within the week, the pair left for Rome, passing three years there (1896-1899).  It was a romantic time of  study together under the same masters.  With frugality, the income of Hermon’s Rinehart scholarship supported them both.  They travelled through Italy occasionally bartering a room for sculpture.  They spend a fourth year in Paris.”  

According to information from the MacArthur Foundation (current owner and curator of the Marquette Building), Amy Aldis Bradley’s complete words in 1895 to Peter Brooks:

After commissioning MacNeil for the exterior bronzes, Aldis wrote to Peter Brooks, “McNeil’s [sic] panels are being placed in position. It is greatly to their and his credit that these bas-reliefs have won for him the Roman [Reinhart] Fellowship. The Commission, choosing him as the best of the very young men…The young sculptor was married on Christmas Day, and sailed for Rome on Wednesday, and is, on the whole, the most happy young man I know. He is very grateful to the owners of the Marquette Building.” (http://marquette.macfound.org/slide/herman-macneil/ )

Eda Lord's Chicago World's Fair Ticket from 'Chicago Day.' Her great-grandson, Jim Dixon found it an a box of memorabilia from the era when she bought her MacNeil sculpture.

Eda Lord, (the woman who purchased the MacNeil bronze statue, “Primitive Indian Music” ~ 1894), attended the World’s Columbian Exposition on “Chicago Day.”  Jim Dixon sent us a scan of his great-grandmother’s actual Ticket to the Chicago World’s Fair.

Eda Lord was not alone.  Chicago Day was packed. A total of 716,881 people attended for “Chicago Day,” October 9, 1893.  That day commemorated the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  The ‘Chicago Day’ marked Chicago’s rebirth. 

Every day of the Chicago World’s Fair marked the city’s arrival on the world-scene. While New York City, Washington, D.C., and St.Louis, had all competed for this ‘Columbian’ 400-year-extravaganza, Chicago won the honors (and labors). The CWE invited America to come take notice that this western-railroad-cattletown was now a cultural-financial center.  Like Columbus himself, the European “Old World” of art and architecture had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and resurrected in this “New World” of American progress, industry, and prosperity.   Now along the shore of this inland Great Lake a “White City” fantasy had emerged.  Crafted from the hands, talents, and imaginations  of American “Beaux Arts” artists, sculptors and architects.

"Chicago Day" Crowds -- October 9, 1893 -- 716,881 people attended that day which commemorated the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. (http://www.chicagohs.org/history/expo.html)

And like Eda Lord, from all over the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia and the world, they came. In total, over 27,000,000 million people attended the entire 1893 Columbia International Exposition.  That number was half of the US population of 54 million then. 

I told Jim Dixon that just seeing his Great-Grandmother Eda’s ticket made me wonder:

  1. How old was Eda Lord when she attended the Fair?
  2. Who would she go with?
  3. Would a lady attend alone?
  4. She lived in Evanston, north of the city. She could have rode the train from there in less than an hour into the “White City”.
  5. She might have passed the “Buffalo Bill Wild West Show” on her way to the main Gate.

Here is what Jim told us about the ticket:

Daniel –

I started pouring through the boxes of family history tonight.  I have a long way to go, but I found something that is perhaps a clue.  Of all things, Eda Lord saved a ticket stub from the World’s Columbian Exposition for “Chicago Day” on Oct 9th  1893.  The ticket is numbered and obviously a part was torn off.  It is in perfect shape.   Attached is a scan of the ticket.  Much more exploring to do and I will send along anything relevant that I find.

Jim Dixon

Well Jim, You have quite a find!  That is a valuable souvenir. And a family history keepsake.

HERMON ATKINS MACNEIL:

Hermon MacNeil was there as well.  For three years he worked on drawings, plans and sculpture. 

"Primitive Indian Music" Hermon A. MacNeil 1894, 24 inches, bronze. Purchased by Eda Lord about 1894-5.

MacNeil sculpted figures on the Electricity building (MORE HERE). He was only 27 years old then. He had returned from study in Paris from about 1888 – 1890. He came to Chicago to work with Phillip Martiny.  Some say he stopped in New York to get a letter of recommendation from August Saint-Gaudens to give to Martiny in Chicago. 

A hundred or more artists sculpted the White City.  Many would be MacNeil’s contemporaries and colleagues through his life. Carol Brooks, who Hermon MacNeil would marry two years later, was also one of the women sculptors called in at the last months to finish the plaster-staff statues that adorned the Fair. (Carol  had studied sculpture with both Lorado Taft and Frederick William MacMonnies) Carol was also a member of “The White Rabbits” ~ a self-christened group of women sculptors called in to complete the massive work load of ‘staff’ statues needed for the Chicago Fair in 1893. ).
Also to see my post CLICK HERE (look for their ‘Marriage’ paragraph.)

HERE ARE CLOSE-UP PHOTOS THAT SUGGEST THAT THIS “Primitive Indian Music” PIECE WAS AN EARLY PROTO-TYPE OF THE “PRIMITIVE CHANT” STATUE (WHICH WAS MUCH MORE REFINED AND POLISHED IN ITS CASTING FINISH.)

It is also based on “Black Pipe”, the young Sioux Brave. MacNeil first saw Black Pipe at the Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and we know that he returned many times to study the Indians.  ( I have ordered two books on Buffalo Bills Wild West Show, the Indians, conditions, treatment etc.) 

We will return to the story of “Black Pipe”, the young Sioux Brave.  Perhaps, like MacNeil, we will return many times.  ~~  DNL

Facial roughness of "Primitive Indian Music" bronze cast from 1894 suggests it is an early MacNeil attempt. His 1901 casts of "Primitive Chant" are more polished.

Sculpting marks on thigh and hip of 1894 "Primitive Indian Music" bronze cast suggest it is an early MacNeil attempt. His 1901 casts of "Primitive Chant" are more polished.

"Primitive Indian Music" - A rare 1894 bronze casting of a sculpture later refined and cast in multiple copies as the "Primitive Chant to the great Spirit."

A recent inquiry from James Dixon has revealed a previously unseen 1894 bronze casting entitled “Primitive Indian Music.” The piece appears to be an early (or earliest) proto-type of  “The Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit” by Hermon A. MacNeil dated 1901.  

MacNeil marked this earlier piece on the base in block letters. He signed it simply “MACNEIL Sc”

It is dated [ '94 ] similar to the Marquette Building panels of 1895, some of which are dated [ '95]. SEE detail below: 

"MACNEiL 95" reads this signature on Panel 3 of Marquette Building, Chicago. (Detail from lower right corner - Note; mocassin foot in showshoe above signature.)

This ‘Dixon’ piece is marked like no other bronzes of the “Primitive Chant.” All others are dated 1901.  Jim tells us that his great grandmother, Eda Lord, lived in Evanston, Illinois, and purchased the statue between 1890 and 1900.

Jim Dixon knows this, because the sculpture has been in his family for four generations.  He found our website seeking more information on his family’s MacNeil art piece. Here’s how Jim shares his family’s story:

My Great Grandmother, Eda Lord, purchased a MacNeil sculpture in the late 1800′s when she lived in Evanston, Illinois. The sculpture made its way down the family tree to my Grandmother and then to my mom and dad and it was passed on to me when my mom passed away last year. The statue is of an Indian boy and is about 24″ tall (bronze) It is labeled “Primitive Indian Music MacNeil s: ’94″ My review of the works of MacNeil pointed to the sculpture entitled “A primitive chant to the Great Spirit” at the Smithsonian Museum. My observation of the photo of “A primitive Chant…” lead me to believe that the two sculptures are the same. It this possible? Were multiple casting made of these statues? Was it common to re-cast the statue at a later time? I would be happy to send digital photos of the sculpture for your records, review and comments. Any further information you may have on this statue would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time and assistance.

James Dixon

The partial title "PRIMITIVE IND..." is visible here

Hers is partial title "Indian Music" and "MACNEIL Sc" with date " '94"

This photo of  markings on the piece read “PRIMITIVE…” and the next photo continues “INDIAN MUSIC”. The  signature bears no initials, only the full last name, “MACNEIL Sc”. Additional marks include a date [ ' 94 ]. These markings are consistent with MacNeil’s pre-1900 dates on the Marquette Panels — last name only with no initials. The block letter ( MACNEIL ) is “identical to Panel #3 of the Marquette Building.  In addition, consider the following:

  1. No foundry marks appear on this Dixon Family heirloom.
  2. More importantly no RBW (Roman Bronze Works) initials or name appears on the casting.  Roman Bronze Works is where most museum pieces of this work were cast.  They also bear the date of 1901.  RBW opened its doors in 1900 the same time that Hermon MacNeil settled in College Point, Queens, NYC, New York.
  3. The absence of RBW’s distinguishing mark, as found on the 1901 casts, and the Dixon family story of acquisition would seem to indicate a date before 1900 for the casting of this piece.
  4. The story of Hermon MacNeil and his hiring of Black Pipe (see previous post dated April 25, 2012) as a studio assistant and model are consistent with an 1894 dating of this piece.  In this conversation with J Walker McSpadden in 1924, MacNeil recalled the events:
    • MACNEIL: “Yes, and you may find it an interesting yarn. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show had been in Chicago during the Fair, and one of his braves was Black Pipe, a Sioux, a fine-looking fellow. He had stayed behind, and one day I met him on the streets, looking hungry and cold, and asked him if he wanted something to do. He did there was no doubt about that. I took him into the studio, fed him up, and then set to work modeling his head. I finished it in four hours, for I was not sure that I would ever see my Indian again; but he stayed with me in all for a year and a half, helping me with odd jobs about the studio. That’s his head there.”
    • It was a life-size bronze, which he indicated, not done in full relief but resting on a plaque a strong piece of portraiture.
    • MCSPADDEN: “In this and your later work with Indians,” I inquired, “did you have any trouble about making their likenesses? Some of them object to being photographed.”
    • MACNEIL: “Yes, many of the older Indians object; they think it takes the spirit out of them. But Black Pipe had been among white folks long enough to know better, and with others I managed to get around their superstitions. Black Pipe, by the way, posed for ‘The [312] Primitive Chant 5 which is one of my best-known Indian subjects.”
    • This is the spirited figure of a naked savage dancing to the music of his own flute. It has been widely copied in art prints.  [ Source: Joseph Walker McSpadden, Famous Sculptors of America, (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1924) pp. 311-12. ]
  5. This figure also appears to also be based on Black Pipe.  CLICK HERE for more on MacNeil and Black Pipe
  6. The only other evidence of a MacNeil Bronze from this period (1894) is “the Vow to Vengeance” in the Art Institute of Chicago which lists a date marking on 1894 as well.   SEE AIC Website HERE.

Many old photos of ‘plaster casts’ of this sculpture appear in museum archives.  This ‘Dixon’ bronze appears to be a very different find than other models, either plaster or bronze. 

WEBMASTER’S COMMENTS:

  1. Thanks Jim for the photos and inquiry.
  2. This seems a VERY early bronze casting from MacNeil’s 1893-1895 days at the Art Institute of Chicago (1893-1895).
  3. I have seen Plaster sculptures from this period but not Bronze casts. Perhaps, MacNeil was venturing (experimenting) into bronze castings. Another bronze from 1894 is this “Vow to Vengeance” which was an early version of the later “Sun Vow”  [ SEE Art Institute of Chicago holdings: CLICK HERE ]
  4. This “Primitive Indian Music” seems an early version of his “Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit.” of 1901. Your piece seems to be a ‘first’ to me. Spelled RARE. There maybe others, but they are not in museum archives, or accessible on-line. I certainly have not seen them.

  5. All other bronze casts I have seen photos of date after 1900. This includes “Primitive Chant” from museums and auction house photos. All those have RBW initials from NYC -Roman Bronze Works.
  6. The work seems much less finished (polished).  It appears rougher in texture (more primitive? early?). Not only Primitive Indian…, but also maybe Primitive MacNeil… ?

CONCLUSION (for now): This is a fascinating piece that seems to this non-curator-MacNeil-enthusiast to be one of Hermon’s earliest concepts of what he later cast as “Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit” in 1901. 

That piece was cast by Roman Bronze Works when MacNeil settled there in his studio-home in College Point NYC.

NEXT: “Who was Eda Lord? And How did she become owner of this early MacNeil sculpture?

Hermon MacNeil’s  interest in Native American culture began in (of all places) Chicago.  Before he ever traveled to the Southwest in 1895 to visit the Hopi (Moqui), and Navajo people, Native culture visited him in Chicago.

"Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit" photo of plaster model from MacNeil's Studio. (Credit: Photo Archives Smithsonian American Art Museum)

The live Native model for “The Primitive Chant” (at left) was a Sioux warrior by the name of Black Pipe.    Hermon first saw Black Pipe in the ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show’ at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. That winter, MacNeil found Black Pipe cold and desolate on the sidewalks of Chicago. MacNeil said that he gave him food and work as a model and an assistant in MacNeil’s studio (shared with Charles F. Browne).

More than being a model called in to portray an idea of the sculptor, Black Pipe portrayed a Native ritual dance, an ecstatic religious experience. The full title “Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit,” implies a religious experience that the native was depicting.  Lorado Taft, in his criticisms below, seems to miss the probable point of how this image came to be.  This image is not MacNeil’s in the mind of the artist, rather it is in the ecstatic religious memory of the model, Black Pipe.  I wonder how Hermon MacNeil experienced this Sioux’s portrayal as the warrior was transported in an ecstatic dance offered to the Great Spirit. MacNeil said that Black Pipe worked for him for the next year and a half. The Sioux warrior is immortalized in this piece and in the facial portrait pictured below. (Both photos are part of the Smithsonian Achieveshttp://siris-juleyphoto.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?&profile=all&source=~!sijuleyphotos&uri=full=3100001~!128333~!0 )

 

MacNeil's bronze of Blackpipe, a Sioux warrior he befriended in 1893 (source Smithsonian Archives)

The urging and support of Edward Everett Ayers led MacNeil and two companions, Hamlin Garland and Charles F. Browne, to travel to the southwestern territories (four-corners of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah) in the summer of 1895.  Their goals were to witness the vanishing images of the Native people,  of the Southwest.

MacNeil made plaster models of native images and events and shipped them back to Chicago for later inspiration.   Many of the sculptures that he made in Rome to fulfill the Rinehart Scholarship requirements were based on these early studies from the Southwest. These would include the ‘Moqui Runner’, and the ‘Sun Vow’.  Returning to these themes three decades later, he crafted the Society of Medalists Issue #3 in 1931, after the “Moqui Runner” and the “Hopi Prayer for Rain.” His 106 foot long bas relief frieze on the North side of the Missouri Capitol contains a section that seems to be the basis for the SOM #3 Issue of 1931 called “Hopi Prayer for Rain.”

Lorado Taft ‘imagined’ MacNeil’s ‘days’ in Rome in very ‘idealistic’ terms.  He suggested that the Reinhart Rome Scholarship must have given MacNeil an ideal time for focused ‘days’ of study:

“Four years of them with three hundred and sixty-five days in each year! To live in the Villa dell’ Aurora, to work upon subjects of one’s own choice, with no care and all expenses paid — what better could an artist ask for.? The only requirements made by the trustees were “satisfying evidences of industry,” to be attested in the form of “a  life-size figure at the end of the second year, a relief containing two life-size figures before the close of the third year, and during the fourth year a life-size group of two or more figures in the round.” [Lorado Taft, The History of American Sculpture, 1903, p. 439].

In his, THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN SCULPTURE, published in 1903, Taft critiques several of MacNeils sculptures in very flattering terms.  He praises the ‘technical quality’ of this piece while questioning the artist choice of a dancer playing his armpit as a musical instrument.  His exact words are offered in the passage below:

The next figure, ” A Primitive Chant,” possesses every technical quality of good sculpture. While the idea of an Indian making strange noises by blowing or shouting in the crook of his arm awakens no responsive thrill of imagination, this is nevertheless a powerful work. Its triumph is all the more marked since our surrender is, in a sense, an unwilling one. We are not prejudiced in favor of this tuneful creature, who, unlike a Hector or an Achilles, brings to his aid no emotional backing of poetry, no prestige of three thousand years’ success upon the ” boards.” This is sculpture pure and simple, — beauty of form, strength with refinement of modelling, compactness, breadth. The figure kneels, taking hold of the earth with powerful limbs ; the hands are clasped, the right elbow tight across the body, the arm raised at a right angle, concealing largely the savage face. The expanded chest and powerful back have fascinated the sculptor ; he has shaped them superbly.

Larado Taft's words describe this kneeling pose of "The Primitive Chant." The 'upright-dancing-warrior' is a more commonly seen version of MacNeil's work.

That these are adequate reasons for the statue one is hardly prepared to say, though such beauty of modelling is almost a sufficient excuse. The trouble is that with nine persons out of ten, nay, with ninety-nine out of the hundred, beautiful modelling is not interesting nor a raison d’etre ; and with the more thoughtful the very fact of such costly elaboration enhances the perplexity. Why so much labor and so much time expended upon a thing unbeautiful in idea? With all its masterful workmanship, and even its sculptural pose, it remains but an illustration of an incident, a custom; curious it may be, and even to some persons moderately interesting, but possessing for none a deep significance. Where does the emotion come in — the poetic thrill which we are told is fundamental in the genesis of every great work of art, and which in turn a truly great work must convey in some fashion and some degree to men and women of taste? We are obliged to admit that in the lack of any supplementary hint at a deeper import — as of mourning or of love-making, of solitude, or of worship — the only response awakened by the action of the figure is a rather unsympathetic query regarding the nature of the “music” produced in so outlandish a fashion!” (pp. 437-439.)

According to the Smithsonian Institute:

Hermon A. MacNeil
A Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit
modeled by 1901
bronze
24 1/2 x 6 1/8 x 8 3/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum,

Gift of Maurice Kawashima in honor of Dr. Richard Wunder

http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/t2go/1lw/index-noframe.html?/exhibitions/online/t2go/1lw/1996.27.html

MacNeil has interpreted an Indian dancer as he chants into the crook of his upraised arm. The model for this sculpture was a Sioux Indian named Black Pipe, who was part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Black Pipe remained in Chicago after the fair closed and became a regular model and studio assistant for MacNeil. The artist maintained a studio in Chicago, but traveled many times to the Southwest to observe Indian rituals, costumes, crafts, and ceremonies firsthand. In Primitive Chant, MacNeil captures the physical beauty and grace of the Native American, which he compared to that of Greek warriors.

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Nearby or far away, there is no ONE place to go and appreciate this wide range of art pieces. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and hidden, these creations point us toward the history and values in which our lives as Americans have taken root.

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