Archive for October, 2010
MacNeil’s “Pat and Jim” were recently remembered as a play place.
“We used to climb on them,” Cindy told me yesterday. Cindy explained how as a child she would climb up from the back “Jim” to sit on his shoulders. Her perch atop this eight foot tall bronze athlete must have delighted both the little girl and the 40-something woman who now walked across Sheridan Road to inform me of her childhood game.
At the time I was photographing “Jim,” more correctly, “Physical Development,” as MacNeil titled the piece in 1916.For the last 94 years, “Jim” has stood outside Patten Gym on the northern edge of the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Illinois.
His nearly century long vigil has been shared by his partner piece, “Pat,” or more correctly, “Intellectual Development,” as the companion sculpture was named. For a previous story on these two works go to this “Patten Gym” posting.
As quickly as Cindy appeared, she quickly went on to her next destination. I wish I had gotten her full name and photo to post here. I have found no previous MacNeil enthusiasts who have successfully climbed one of his sculpture. I suppose children are more welcome than we adults.
While the abstract themes of “Physical and Intellectual Development” were what the campus designers envisioned and what Hermon A. MacNeil delivered in the “Beaux Arts,” style, the two classic Greco-Roman figures of athlete accomplishment and scholarly wisdom were soon to receive more manageable “nicknames.” As a previous post on this website suggests:
Northwestern students, however, have given them the ‘very punny’ nicknames of “Pat and Jim” or more colloquially, “Pat’nJim.” The similarity to “Patten Gym” is quite amusing. Such whimsy may have been known by MacNeil in his day. His choice of the ‘tortoise and the hare’ pair on the Supreme Court pediment document his own whimsy in stone. Let us all smile as well!
The Northwestern University website tells the story in this way:
In the building’s early years its entranceway was ornamented with pure gold plating, and in 1917 Patten commissioned artist Hermon MacNeil to design statuary appropriate to an atmosphere of athletic aspiration. MacNeil responded with bronze figures of a man and a woman. The statues have been known to generations of students by the fond nicknames of “Pat” and “Jim.” When in 1939 Northwestern planned the construction of the Technological Institute, it was clear that the Patten Gymnasium would have to be moved to accommodate the new engineering building. Subsequently a decision was made to demolish the structure and construct a new gymnasium, also to be named for James Patten. One of the most important events held in the building during its final year was the first NCAA basketball tournament, on March 27, 1939, where the University of Oregon Ducks beat the Ohio State Buckeyes by a score of 46-33.
The original Patten Gymnasium was razed on April 1, 1940. MacNeil’s statues were retained and today grace the entrance of the present Patten Gymnasium, dedicated during Homecoming on November 2, 1940.
The art was completed by Hermon A. MacNeil in 1916. These Northwestern commissions were completed in 1916, the same year as the minting of the first Standing Liberty Coin (click to see more).
It was a busy period in MacNeil’s career.
In 1924, Joseph Walker McSpadden interviewed Hermon A. MacNeil at his College Point studio on the north shore of Long Island (now Queens). He published lengthy exerts of that visit in his book, Famous Sculptors of American . We have recently acquired a discarded copy of the work and will be offering exerts from it in months to come.
In his volume, McSpadden suggested that MacNeil interpreted Native Americans “with a sympathy and insight particularly his own.” He conversed with MacNeil about his witnessing of the Snake dance and other ceremonies of southwest tribal life in 1895.
He takes a lengthy quote from a September 1909 article (“The Art of MacNeil”) in an art periodical called the Craftsman as saying:
“In ‘Moqui Runner,’ ‘Primitive Chant,’ ‘The Sun Vow,’ ‘The Coming of the White Man’,’ and many others of his Indian statues, MacNeil always gives you the feeling of the Indian himself, of his attitude of his own vanishing tribes, and his point of view toward the white race which has absorbed his country. it was never the Indian of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, trapped out for curiosity seekers, but the grave, sad, childlike man of the plains,faithful to his own tribe, once loyal to us, though now resentful; and always a thinker, a poet, and a philosopher.”
McSpadden’s work provides a valuable piece of history, namely MacNeil’s own comments on his life, thoughts, and sculptures.