Archive for Native American
Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) – “Hopi” (Obverse) and “Prayer for Rain” (Reverse) Society of Medallists (SOM), Issue #3 of 1931, was based on MacNeil’s “Moqui (Hopi) Runner” statue of 1897. This was the only SOM issue that MacNeil would ever sculpt. Yet nearly fifty years later (1943), he vividly described these images of his 1895 travels to the Hopi (Moqui) Mesa in his Autobiographical Sketches.
MacNeil’s brief artists intro accompanying 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.”
In the documentation accompanying each medal, MacNeil offered the following additional narrative of his witnessing of this ritual nearly 36 years earlier while on his 1895 venture to the Southwest with Hamlin Garland and Charles F. Browne:
“This is one of their greatest and most important ceremonies. Occurring in August, it is filled with ritualism for nine days and in their kiva, an underground chamber, they have ceremonies with these snakes that have been gathered by the antelope and snake clans of their tribe for six days, from the north, east, south and west, also from above and below, therefore from all the directions of the universe. These snakes, so far as our best authority goes, although a portion of them are poisonous varieties, are not tampered with but are handled freely by the Indians, both during their underground ceremonies, and later on the last day above ground, in their public ceremony. During the last day ceremony they dance two and two, one with the snakes in his mouth, sometimes two at a time, while the other, accompanying him, wards off the head of the snake from the face of his companion with an eagle feather. It will be remembered that the eagle preys on the snake in nature and the smell of the eagle feather is supposed to frighten the snake with the intention of preventing him from biting. This ceremony was so intense and apparently so vital to them that although I myself saw two Indians bitten, they seem to be so completely under the control of the spirit that although I watched for further developments, yet there seemed to be no swelling or poisonous effects from the bites.
Even though the dancing takes place after the participants have taken hardly any food during the nine days, yet immediately after the public ceremony, which is performed in a circular action around the sacred stone on the mesa at Waslpi, they each take an emetic. After circling twice around the sacred rock, the one bearing snakes in his mouth emits them and a third follower immediately grabs the snake from the ground and carries it back to a little improvised enclosure of cottonwood boughs. After all the snakes have been used on this manner each Indian grabs into the bunch and with his hands filled with the snakes, each one starts running down the trail off the mesa onto the plains as shown on the reverse side of the medal and figuratively deposits the snakes again in their underground abodes.
Behind the heads of the dancers on the obverse is shown the sand picture drawn by the Indians themselves with colored earths on the floor of their kiva or underground chamber, about which they performed sacred ceremonials previous to the public dance. On this side of the medal the attempt is also made to show the apparent basic reason for the use of the snake in this prayer for water. This reason or theory seems to have evolved from the similarity in action between the snake on the earth and the lightning in the sky. The Indian, however, has evolved the theory of a kind of cousinship through these angular moving reptiles with the still more angular movement of the lightning to jar the rain clouds for rain, thus making their chief need their strongest prayer. Curiously enough, although there had been no sign of rain for weeks, the day following the remarkable ceremony, a little cloud appeared in the sky and the next day it rained copiously.”
[ SOURCE: Society of Medalists documentation accompanying the medals; reproduced at “Medals4Trade” ]
Following-up the previous post of April 23, 2013, I offer this fascinating link to a great lecture on the colorful legend of the Pony Express. Author Christopher Corbett [ CLICK HERE ] spoke about his book “Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express” His 54 minute YouTube video shares humorous stories of Buffalo Bill, Pony Express, and research findings. The presentation includes questions from the audience, as well.
Hermon MacNeil’s last sculpture was the Pony Express Rider erected in 1940 in Saint Joseph, Missouri. A skit of the Pony Express was a feature of every show given by Buffalo Bill Cody. We can thank Buffalo Bill for infecting American History with the Pony Express legend. He even infected world history with images of the Pony Express. Hermon MacNeil became captivated by the images of the Native American Indians (Black Pipe and others) in head. He was first introduced to those visions in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show outside of the front gates of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. After this MacNeil traveled to the Southwestern United States. That experience affected him profoundly. From then on, he produced sculptures and returned to those images of Native Americans and Indian themes throughout his life.
In 1890 Buffalo Bill rode his troop around Vatican City for the Pope. I never rode with the Pony Express, and neither did Buffalo Bill, though he was the right age to do it in 1860 (He did ride as a courier as a very young boy). However, I almost got a Pony Express ornament for my 1939 LaSalle in 2012 (see below). The statue is MacNeil’s. The LaSalle is mine. (The trailer belongs to Chris Carlsen.) The location is Saint Joseph, Missouri. Enough foolishness, already. Below are more Pony Express images from St. Joe.
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.
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:
- How old was Eda Lord when she attended the Fair?
- Who would she go with?
- Would a lady attend alone?
- 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”.
- 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:
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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:
- No foundry marks appear on this Dixon Family heirloom.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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  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. ]
- This figure also appears to also be based on Black Pipe. CLICK HERE for more on MacNeil and Black Pipe
- 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.
- Thanks Jim for the photos and inquiry.
- This seems a VERY early bronze casting from MacNeil’s 1893-1895 days at the Art Institute of Chicago (1893-1895).
- 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 ]
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 Achieves ~ http://siris-juleyphoto.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?&profile=all&source=~!sijuleyphotos&uri=full=3100001~!128333~!0 )
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.
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.)
Hermon A. MacNeil
A Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit
modeled by 1901
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
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.
In the early 1900s, because of his knowledge and authorship on American Sculpture, Lorado Taft was referred to by many as ‘the Dean of American Sculpture.’ He offered early praise for Hermon Atkins MacNeil. His admiration of MacNeil’s work continued into the 1920s when he recommended MacNeil’s “Lawyer Lincoln” bust to the University Of Illinois to grace the spiral entry foyer of Lincoln Hall.
THE YOUNGER GENERATION IN NEW YORK
The opening twentieth century brings before us a group of young sculptors equipped by nature and by training as in the past few Americans have been. …
One of the most promising of this number is Hermon A. MacNeil. …
Well equipped with the training which the Parisian studios give, Mr. MacNeil was early discontented with the banality of modern sculptural themes. The makeshift subjects of his comrades seemed to him unworthy. He wanted to do things more original and more truly expressive. Western life and the Indian had for him a great appeal, and he made several trips to the redman’s reservations north and west, in order to study what he considered the most sculptural motifs which America offers.
His reliefs over the doors of the Marquette building in Chicago — scenes of the life and death [ p. 437 > p. 438 ] of Pere Marquette — show to what good use he put his material. He was wont to talk of the artistic possibilities of the Indian in sculpture with an enthusiasm that was eloquent if not always convincing. To him they were as fine as Greek warriors and as worthy to be immortalized. …
More of Taft’s critique on H. A. MacNeil will be offered in upcoming postings on HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com.
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.
December of 1895 was an exciting time in the life of Hermon A. MacNeil — A time when he was described as “the most happy young man I know.”
Chicago. In fact, 1985, in general, had been a productive year for the sculptor. Following the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, times had been tough for both artists and Fair workers. MacNeil had found Black Pipe, (the Sioux from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show), cold and hungry on the streets of Chicago. He took him in as studio help and a model for future sculptures.
Marquette. During 1895, Hermon had completed the four bronze panels depicting the life of Fr. Jacques (Père) Marquette. They were put in place over the four entry doors of the Marquette Building (CLICK HERE) where he and his artist friend, Charles F. Browne, shared a studio.
According to information from the MacArthur Foundation (current owner and curator of the Marquette Building), Amy Aldis Bradley wrote 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/ )
Rinehart Prize. In December, he received news that he had been named as recipient of the Rinehart Roman Scholarship for study in Rome. Newspapers such as the Nov. 25, 1895 Chicago Tribune (CLICK HERE), and the Dec. 22, 1895 -New York Sun, (CLICK HERE) (columns 5 & 6), contained the news of the selection of this 29 year-old western artist to receive the Prix Rome.
The sculptors on the committee that selected MacNeil for the award were the ‘giants’ among American sculptors of the 19th century. As mentioned in the above newspapers, the Rinehart Roman committee included Augustus Saint Gaudens, John Quincy Adams Ward, and Daniel Chester French.
These famous sculptors were in the prime of their careers. Saint Gaudens, at 47, had been the sculptural advisor for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. One tradition suggests that MacNeil asked Saint Gaudens for a letter of reference to Phillip Martiny that got him work on the that Exposition in 1893. John Quincy Adams Ward, at age 65 was the ‘grandfather’ of American sculptors, and the founder as well as standing president of the National Sculpture Society. Daniel Chester French, age 45, was also a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and sculpted the colossal sixty-foot golden “Republic” centerpiece statue for the Chicago Fair. ( A thirty foot tall miniature golden replica of which still graces Jackson Park in Chicago today.)
On Christmas Day 1895, in Chicago, he married Carol Louise Brooks, also a sculptor. Earlier MacNeil was informed that he had won the Rinehart Roman Scholarship. Following their wedding, the pair left for Rome, passing three years there (1896-1899) and eventually spend a fourth year in Paris where their first son, Claude, was born. During those years they study together under the same masters and live on the shared income of Hermon’s Rinehart Scholarship. (Carol had also studied sculpture with both Lorado Taft and Frederick William MacMonnies and been 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. ).
Other events from 1895 would later unfold into sculpture-opportunities for Hermon MacNeil. In May in Greenwich Village, New York City, Stanford White, with assistance from both Frederick MacMonnies and Phillip Martiny, completed a permanent Washington Arch.
The first one, made in 1889 of paper and wood, commemorated the centennial of the inauguration of George Washington. Received with great popularity, the citizens of NYC demanded a permanent Arch monument for their first President. White’s design was dedicated on May 4, 1895 with two empty pedestals, meant for statues of Washington. These niches on the north face of the monument remained empty for almost two decades before MacNeil’s statue of Washington as Commander-in-Chief would fill one pedestal (east side, in 1916), and Alexander Stirling Calder’s statue of Washington as Statesman would fill the other (west side, in 1918).