Archive for Portland
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.
There is another “Chief of the Multnomah.”
Today I received four unsolicited photos in my website email. Three are posted below. The only message was the words, “I need help with this.”
I responded with “What help do you need with this?”
The one word answer came back, “Valuation.”
So, I asked for permission to post the photos on this website. I added that the photos:
“are excellent examples of public works of HA MacNeil that are not publicized in the art world. I was not aware of this public sculpture until your inquiry.”
My responses included:
1. An explanation that I am neither an art appraiser nor an art dealer. I also expressed curiosity as to where the statue was located in such a park-like setting.
2. I identified myself as the webmaster of HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com. I stated that I build and maintain this website to gather information on the sculpture and life of Hermon A. MacNeil. I stated that it has attracted people like the inquirer who wanted more information.
3. So I offered the following information: I recognize the piece in the photographs as “A Chief of the Multnomah.” The photo of MacNeil’s signature is very helpful. (See below). The ‘H.A. MacNeil, SC’ was his typical marking. “SC” was his abbreviation for ‘sculptor.’ The ’04′ would indicate a completion date of ’1904′ for the sculpture. The 4/9 would suggest this is the 4th casting of 9 castings of this piece. There is probably a marking of RBW or “Roman Bronze Works” somewhere on the sculpture also. They were the foundry that MacNeil (and dozens of other American sculptors) used most extensively.
4. I passed along information of a recent estate auction in Queens, NY a where a “Chief of the Multnomah” statue was sold. While I do not have documentation, I remembered reading a sale price somewhere in the $35,000 range. I suggested that this other piece might be one the ‘nine’ cast with this 4th-of-9 castings. See section 7 below and the links there for a bit more on that Michael Halberian Estate Sale.
5. I told how MacNeil later combined ‘Chief Multnomah with a smaller accompanying figure of a native medicine man standing by the chief. That larger sculpture he called, “The Coming of the White Man.” It stands in Portland, Oregon in Washington Park. See my posting at:
6. I also told how the original plaster sculpture model of the “Coming of the White Man” was given by MacNeil to the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point, Queens, NYC, which is just up the street from the location of MacNeil’s studio and home (now destroyed). Here is more of the story on that:
7. I then offered more about that recent estate auction featuring “A Chief of the Multnomah” (which is the right-hand half of the “Coming of the White Man” pair.)
“Everything Must Go” was a feature story in the “Queens Chronicle” by Elizabeth Daley, editor (March 11, 2011). Michael Halberian lived in the former Steinway Family Mansion. It is uncertain whether the MacNeil sculpture was a Steinway heirloom that sold with the mansion or whether Mike discovered it in his appraisal work. (Some stories say he had is cast from the plaster original model.)
At that point I still had no idea where the statue was located.
Neither do you until next posting.
AND THAT IS THE BEST PART OF THE STORY.
We were recently contacted by John Graydon Smith, CEO of the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania, that a copy of MacNeil’s “Sun Vow” is exhibited there in the museum.
Follow-up contact from Ashley J. Hamilton, Director of Collections, tells us that the piece can be seen in the Founder’s Gallery in the center of the second floor. A map to the RPM is provide below:
The Director also graciously sent photos and a bit of history. This “Sun Vow” came to the museum in 1929 as part of the American Art collection but is displayed more prominently in the Founder’s Gallery on the 2nd floor.
A hot link to the RPM’s American Gallery has been added to this web-site’s list of “Museums: with MacNeil Art” in the right-hand column. A photo of James Earle Fraser’s “End of the Trail” is displayed there. [ Reading Public Museum, Reading PA; "Sun Vow" ] MacNeil and Fraser both married accomplished sculptors – Carol Brooks MacNeil and Laura Gardin Fraser. The two men, along with their wives, were colleagues throughout their careers. Both men have massive bas relief friezes, 100 feet long, that are prominent on the Missouri State Capitol Building.
The “Sun Vow” is certainly Hermon MacNeil’s most renowned piece of work. It is as endearing now as it was a century ago. Lorado Taft, often called the Dean of American Sculpture, wrote in 1904:
No one grudges the young artist the honors which this work has brought him: a silver medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and a gold medal at the Pan-American [Buffalo 1901]. Even were his career to be cut short today, this group, like Stewardson’s “Bather” or Donoghue’s “Young Sophocles,” is good enough and important enough to insure its author a permanent place in the history of American Art. [SOURCE: Lorado Taft, The History of American Sculpture, p 444. ]
Thank you, for your courtesy John Smith and Ashley Hamilton. We have added your “Sun Vow” to our virtual gallery of Hermon A. MacNeil’s works.
MacNeil’s “Moqui Runner” is running through a prominent Chicago Library. The “Runner’s” race began in 1924 and continues into the 21st century.
According to Scott Manning Stevens, Ph.D. (director of the McNickle Center at the Newberry), it is very likely that this Moqui belonged to Edward Everett Ayer himself. Its dimensions are the same as those specified in this AIC collection entry [AIC – “Moqui Runner”]
Edward Ayer also encouraged the young McNeil to travel to the American west and southwest. He urged artists and sculptors to capture the vanishing images of the native culture. In addition he was a patron of many artisans in such travels and western studies.
A portrait of Ayer’s office painted by his nephew, Elbridge Ayer Burbank, includes two MacNeil statuettes (light gray pieces) sitting on the bookcases. The one on the left resembles “Early Toil” (a figure of a native American woman carrying many objects of her daily labor). The other figure on the right appears to be “A Chief of the Multnomah” (an arrow straight chief standing proudly with his arms crossed over his chest). This second piece became the right half of the “Coming of the White Man” grouping that can be seen in Portland’s Washington Park and in Poppenhusen Institute in College Point, Queens, NYC (and in the previous post of June 1, 2011 on this website-see link at bottom).
The fact that Ayer private study would include these two MacNeil sculptures offers perpetual record to his connection to the artist and patronage of his western work. The fact that Ayer’s nephew included them in his painting composition bears testimony to his awareness of his uncle’s identity with MacNeil pieces.
MacNeil had Blackpipe model in his Chicago studio that he shared with C. F Browne after the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Blackpipe continued to work for him through 1894. This all gives evidence of his fascination with Native people and making them subjects of his sculpture. His travels in 1895 to the southwest (later called the four corners area) greatly influenced his sculpture choices for years to come. These works became the objects of his early public acclaim. Yet their influence remained throughout his career both personally and publicly. In 1931, for example, the Society of Medalists commissioned him to make their annual medal. The “Prayer for Rain” (the obverse – patterned after the “Moqui” shown here) and the “Hopi” (reverse) became his chosen subject. [“Hopi” was the later preferred spelling of the earlier “Moqui.”]
MacNeil’s Exhibit listings for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition are recorded in “The Catalogue of the Exhibition of Fine Arts.” Pan-American Exposition: Buffalo, 1901. p. 45-46; 59 This document indicates that the statue belonging to E. E. Ayer, Esq by 1901 was the one exhibited in the Pan-American exposition and receiving the Silver Medal in the Paris Fair of 1900. It appears that the Ayer Moqui pictured here is that same sculpture.
Records in the Catalogue of Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo, NY are as follows:
H. A. MacNeil:
#1613. The Sun Vow – Silver Medal, Paris Exposition, 1900.
#1614. The Moqui Runner – Silver Medal, Paris Exposition, 1900 (Lent by E. E. Ayer, Esq)
#1615. Bust — Agnese
#1616. Bust – [Lent by C. F. Browne, Esq.]
MacNeil, H. A., 145 West 55th Street, New York, N. Y. (II*) 1613-1616
*II – indicates MacNeil exhibited in “Group II – Sculpture, including medals and cameos” p. 49.
The Art Institute of Chicago lists the following collection information:
- Hermon Atkins MacNeil
- American, 1866-1947
- The Moqui Runner (The Moqui Prayer for Rain—The Returning of the Snakes), Modeled 1896, cast c. 1897
- H. 57.2 cm (22 1/2 in.)
- Signed on side of base: “H. A. MAC NEIL. Sc. Fond. Nelli. ROMA”
- Inscribed around side of base, front: “THE RETURNING OF THE SNAKES”
- Inscribed under center of the figure, on base: “THE MOQUI / PRAYER.FOR.RAIN”
- Gift of Edward E. Ayer, 1924.1350
Second MacNeil Postcard
we have selected a re-run of this very old
color rendered photograph of the
“Coming of the White Man.”
Photo file courtesy of Gil Shell
This monument in Portland has a twin on the east coast in NYC that is in the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point, Queens, NYC.
This second statue is just down the street from Hermon A. MacNeil Park and the site of his old home and studio in Queens. The sculpture was donated by Mr. MacNeil to this Cultural Center in his community. It occupies an honored place in the stage-right corner of the auditorium.
See that twin photo here
The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition ~ St. Louis World’s Fair, commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.
At the 1270 acre Forest Park location and the campus of Washington University the Fair was constructed and the Olympic Games were held.
“Fifteen major exhibition Palaces radiated in fan pattern from central Festival Hall in “setting of lagoons, boulevards, gardens, fountains and sculpture” (1,200 pieces of statuary). Electric light, sign of progress then, used “lavishly” for both decoration and illumination. Featured were motor car, aeronautics and wireless telegraphy–all at their earliest, most exciting stage of development; spotlight on auto which had traveled from New York City to St. Louis, then “an unprecedented feat and a hazardous journey.” Olympic Games held during Exposition in first concrete stadium built in U.S.”
For the event, MacNeil exhibited three sculptures: “The Moqui Runner,” “A Primitive Chant,” “The Coming of the White Man” (pictured here from period postcard showing the Portland, Oregon setting.)
On a prominent hill of the Forest Park location, Cass Gilbert designed and build the Palace of Fine Arts. This one permanent building remains 106 years later as the home of the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM).
It also became one of many collaborations of Gilbert and MacNeil over the next 30 year. The most famous of these would be the last in 1932 – the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
Gilbert designed the front entrance of this Palace of Fine Arts to bear six Corinthian columns. The four central columns frame the three MacNeil reliefs sculptures above the three entrance doors. Inscribed on his center panel are the words “ARS ARTIUM OMNIUM “roughly meaning, “The art of all arts.”
That panel is pictured here.
This link below on the SLAM website also offers more detail images of all three panels and the building entrance:
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
Other works completed by MacNeil for the fair were the “Fountain of Liberty” and the massive sculpture “Physical Liberty.” The artist rendition below shows both. “Physical Liberty” is the large Buffalo sculpture on the right. A young woman on the other side accompanies the powerful beast. Detail photos of the fountain are difficult to attain. Hopefully, more to Come!
In the meanwhile, Enjoy!