Archive for February, 2011
- Today is the 145th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth.
- The above celebrates his life from the Everett, Massachusetts city website.
February 22, 1732
Pictured below is Hermon A. MacNeil’s sculpture of General Washington in the uniform of the General in Chief of the Continental Army placed on the easterly pedestal base of the memorial Arch on May 27, 1916.
The first Washington Arch was constructed to commemorate the centenary of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States. That Memorial Arch was a temporary structure meant only for the celebration in 1889.
“The first arch was made of wood, designed by Stanford White, great architect of the age of opulence. It was originally constructed for the Centennial of Washington’s Inauguration. The celebration took place on April 30, 1889. Festooned with papier mache wreaths and garlands of flowers, lit up with hundreds of newly invented incandescent lights, the whole thing cost a whopping $2700. The arch was the hit of the ceremonies. Two days later the Marble and final version was commissioned. White also designed that. By April of 1892 the last block was in place, though the arch wasn’t dedicated until May 4, 1895!”
“Washington’s likenesses were not added until 1916 when the east pier’s “Washington at War” by Herman MacNeil was unveiled. Two years later the west pier’s “Washington at peace” by A. Stirling Calder was dedicated. Both have suffered erosion during the age of the automobile and the formerly fine features of Washington are pitted and broken down so, he is no longer really recognizable. Perhaps it’s time to redo them in bronze. For the next century. Why not?”
Stanford White, of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, (click name to see their work) was one of the first to be associated with the City Beautiful and the Beaux Arts movements dedicated to cleaning up American cities and planning them with order and artistic beauty. The Arch stands at the end of Waverly Place and Fifth Avenue. The neighborhood was lined with mansions of the wealthy in the gilded age before World War I.
“The Gilded Age was a time of pomp and peace and prosperity. Never before were the gaps between the rich and poor so sharply divided as they were in those quiet years before The Great War of 1917. Without personal income tax to curtail immense fortunes in America’s burgeoning industries, millionaires flourished and paraded their wealth for all the world to see. The magnificent mansions of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie stand like faded peacocks along New York’s Fifth Avenue to this day, bearing silent tribute to a luxurious past long faded into time.”
Marjorie Dorfman at http://www.nyc-architecture.com/ARCH/ARCH-McKimMeadandWhite.htm
According to the Daily Planet, Washington Square ARCH is one of the great place to celebrate Washington’s Birthday:
George Washington Sculptures at Washington Square Arch, Washington Square Park
Designed by architect Stanford White, the Arch was dedicated in 1895. Washington as Commander-in-Chief, Accompanied by Fame and Valor was designed by Hermon Atkins MacNeil and was installed in 1916. Washington as President, Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice was designed by Alexander Stirling Calder and installed in 1918. A major restoration of the arch was completed in December 2004. http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M090/news
At the University of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln has been released from the vault. He is out for public view.
Starting at noon on Sunday February 20th, the refurbished Lincoln bust by Hermon A. MacNeil will be on public exhibit in the Spurlock Museum at U of I.
In a recent email Dr. Wayne T. Pitard, Director, of Spurlock Museum, told us:
“Having had the chance to look at the bust in great detail, I am enormously impressed with MacNeil’s talent. It is a wonderful piece, one of my favorite depictions of Lincoln. I wanted to let you know that during its exhibition at the Spurlock between February 20 and January of next year, people will have the only chance in our lifetimes to actually walk all the way around the bust, to see it from all angles. Once it goes back into its niche in Lincoln Hall, the back will no longer be accessible. If you ever are in the neighborhood, you should try to come by and see it here.”
MacNeil’s Lincoln has graced the Lincoln Hall stair case since 1928. It was removed for safekeeping in a vault when construction began on a total restoration of Lincoln Hall. The empty niche that the statue normally occupies is visible in this video of the Lincoln Hall Kick Off Ceremony (the miniature bust of Lincoln seen here is NOT one of the MacNeil sculpture, but of another artist.) For the next year it will be in Spurlock for viewing in a 360 degree venue, unlike the setting shown above before restoration. The Public can celebrate MacNeil’s Lincoln Statue at the Spurlock all year.
Holly Korab, (Senior Director in the Office of Communications and Marketing, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) informed the webmaster this week that:
Mr. MacNeil’s statue is dear to many generations of Illini. We are working on a video for our “This Old Hall” series on the restoration of Lincoln Hall. (Holly, I hope the video has a 360 scene of the statue as it appears on display in Spurlock ~ webmaster). Do you know how Mr. MacNeil felt about our statue?
Well Holly, we do know how MacNeil’s friend and teacher, Lorado Taft, felt about the piece. Taft was considered the ‘dean of American sculptors’ (especially in the Beaux Arts tradition). He worked with MacNeil in the 1893 Columbian Exposition — the Chicago World’s Fair. Carol Brooks, who was one of Taft’s students, would become Herman’s wife in 1895. She helped Taft as one of the female sculptors known as “White Rabbits.” Through the thirty years since that Exposition, Taft knew the MacNeils and their artistic abilities. Perhaps this influenced Taft’s choice of the Mac Neil Statue over that of Gutzon Borglum, yet he knew and worked with Borglum as well. He just seemed to not like the overall effect of the Borglum piece. You can compare for yourself the two Lincolns (superficially, at least) from the photos provided here. More directly Taft stated:
“I regret to say that Borglum’s so called ‘Lincoln’ is my pet aversion; I would prefer not to help in this matter,”
In his book Modern Tendencies in Sculpture, Taft shares his expectation of good sculpture. In the preface, he states:
“SCULPTURE SHOULD BE THE MOST EXCEPTIONAL OF THE ARTS. IT SHOULD EXTERNALIZE ONLY THE RAREST AND THE MOST ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS OF LIFE, CHOOSING WITH IRREPROACHABLE DISCRIMINATION FROM THE FORMS, THE JOYS AND THE SORROWS OF HUMANITY. A SCULPTED MOMENT WHICH IS NOT ADMIRABLE IS A PERMANENT CRIME, A PERSISTENT AND INEXCUSABLE OBSESSION.” Lorado Taft, Modern Tendencies in Sculpture, University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1921. p. 9.
“his good taste united with a fine decorative sense and with much fluency of handling”… Running through all these works is a dependable sanity most gratifying to meet amid the eccentricities and vagaries of current endeavor. The sculptor has never exemplified this quality to better advantage than in his fine “Lincoln” model, a work meriting enlargement and a prominent place.” Lorado Taft, Modern Tendencies in Sculpture, University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1921. p. 120.
In 1923, Taft, recommended MacNeil to James White, the University supervising architect, for the Lincoln Hall placement. Taft’s friend, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, created a bust of Lincoln that the University purchased for $450. http://www.lincolnhall.illinois.edu/history/lincolnhall/entrance/index.html
How did MacNeil feel about his Lincoln statue?
I can’t answer that directly, but MacNeil expressed his thoughts and feelings about the sculptor’s task in 1917. At the annual meeting of the American Federation of Arts, MacNeil spoke of the progress of contemporary sculpture.
“Above all else, [the artist’s] work must radiate some charm or strength of human character that touches the passer by.”
Errant Bronzes: George Grey Barnard’s Statues of Abraham Lincoln (American Arts Series/University of Delaware Press Books) by Frederick C. Moffatt (2000), p. 129.
He went on to suggest that this radiated art spirit, had to be discovered in the hearts of the observers of the piece.
I know myself, from reading other accounts of MacNeil describing his Marquette, Jolliet, Illini grouping in Douglas Park Chicago, and his Ezra Cornell statue at Ithica, New York, that this art spirit radiated in MacNeil himself as he planned, prepared and sculpted these works. His heart went into and radiated from each of his sculptures and memorials. Studying the details he put in them, reveals that to me. Now the public can assess that at the Spurlock.
SO, Enjoy, Celebrate, and MacNeil’s Lincoln, The Lawyer. May you anticipate the 2013 re-dedication of Lincoln Hall as your 21st Century tribute to Mr. Lincoln.
MORE LINCOLN LORE:
VISIT SPURLOCK MUSEUM – here’s a Google Map
NOTE: February 22nd marks the 279th Birthday of George Washington. February 27th is the 145th Birthday of Hermon A. MacNeil. The Arch in Washington Square Park, NYC, contains TWO separate statues of Washington
[Continued from the February 12th posting:] While Washington "Refused to Be King" many personal factors as well as the expectations of the people were put upon him.
1) As a large man with great physical bearing, he was an embodiment of authority all his life.
2) At 6′ 4″ and slightly over 200 lbs, he was a full head taller contemporaries.
3) Washington was not a handsome man but when he set in motion, his full package conveyed a sheer majesty. Benjamin Rush observed, “He has so much martial dignity in his deportment that there is not a king in Europe but would look like a valet de chambre by his side.
4) As a fledgling nation that had only known “ROYALTY” prior to independence. So any leader who looked royal was eligible, so to speak, for coronation.
5) “John Adams claimed that the reason Washington was invariably selected to lead every national effort was that he was always the tallest man in the room.” (Ellis, p. 124)
6) It did not help that he often portrayed a royal style of dress, designed his own uniforms and had them tailor-made to fit his striking frame.
7) As one of his biographers put it, “his body did not just occupy space, it seemed to organize space around it.“ (Ellis, p. 124)
Given all the above, Ellis adds the 'crowning' observation: He had no compunction about driving around Philadelphia in an ornate carriage drawn by six cream-colored horses; or, when on horseback, riding a white stallion with a leopard cloth and gold trimmed saddle; or accepting laurel crowns at public celebrations that resembled coronations. (Ellis, p. 127) No wonder the majestic man became regarded as "His Majesty." The TWO Washington Statues MacNeil's sculpture of Washington as "Soldier" was the first of the two done in stone. It was intended to set off the companion piece of Washington as President, by Alexander Stirling Calder on the supporting walls of the Washington Arch, on Fifth Avenue, New York. One shows “The President,” and the other” “The Soldier.” MacNeil told McSpadden in 1924: "We had to work together on those statues, Calder and I," said Mr. MacNeil, "and we had some hot arguments over them, though we are good friends. Of course, each of us had his own statue to do, but we had to treat them in the same restrained manner, to fit each other and the Arch itself." In order to fit the the Arch's 77 foot stature, MacNeil's Washington was sculpted twice life-size. So while 6 foot 4 inches in life, in MacNeil's hands,Washington became 12 foot and 8 inches tall. Despite this size the greater massiveness of the Arch almost dwarfs the figures. In a similar manner, the revolution and the resulting republic appear to dwarf any ONE person or group of Founders. Perhaps that is the essence of the heritage of the United States of America as a republic. A heritage recaptured by the immortal words of another President, Mr. Abe Lincoln (also born in this month) as he closed his comments over the grave sites at Gettysburg.
"that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." After Washington finished his second four year term as President, he stepped down. He returned to his beloved Mount Vernon Estate. He lived only three more years and died in 1799 in the third year of the Presidency of John Adams. Yes, "we have a republic, if we can keep it." And the man who could have been King, chose instead, to be a Citizen. First a citizen-soldier and then a citizen-President. And so it has been ever since. Presidents Day, the rule of law and the TWO twelve-foot eight-inch statues of Washington by Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Alexander Stirling Calder remind us of that heritage. As well as the absence of any likeness of anything or anyone resembling: "KING GEORGE WASHINGTON IV" For Mr. Washington was: "A Man Who Refused to BE KING!"For further Reading and research see:
- Kurt Soller, Newsweek, “The Man who Would Be King” Oct. 8, 2008 (click on title for link)
- Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers, Knopf: NY, 2001. p. 120-161 (especially 124-127).
Related Posts on this website:
Here's an informative video on the nature of the American "republic." While a bit harsh on its characterization of 'democracy," it is well worth watching.
TITLE: "A Republic if you can keep it."
“Entertaining video, but this is a gross misrepresentation. The author doesn’t note, for example, that the U.S. Constitution replaced the catastrophic “limited government” under the Articles of Confederation, and that a desire to tax Americans directly & regulate interstate commerce were the two chief motivations behind the U.S. Constitution. The size & role of a government is not the issue; it is a government’s internal structure – its checks & balances – which are the key to its success. AboveAllNations 7 months ago”
@AboveAllNations: The Constitution was one of strictly limited and enumerated powers. You need but read The Federalist Papers (authored by Madison, Jay, and Hamilton) to secure passage of the Constitution by the respective states) to understand that. A quick quote: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” –James Madison, Federalist No. 45 – aliunde 7 months ago 7
February 22nd marks the 279th Birthday of George Washington.
February 27th is the 145th Birthday of Hermon A. MacNeil.
The Arch in Washington Square Park, NYC, contains TWO separate sculptures of Mr. Washington. The presence of two distinct representations of this remarkable American rather than ONE, is remarkable.
So, why TWO statues? Well, the first statue created by Hermon A. MacNeil represented General Washington, as the soldier, the Commander of the Continental Army of the American Revolution. The second created by Stirling Calder portrayed Mr. Washington as the statesman, the President. BOTH sculptures are necessary to portray George Washington’s TWO essential roles in the creation and establishment of the American republic.
Throughout his entire career Washington (like his founding brothers and sisters) believed, worked, fought, governed, and served the ideals of a republic as the form of government for the United States. After the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman, “What form of government have you given us?” Franklin is said to have replied, “A Republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.” A Republic is can be defined as:
a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, retain supreme control over the government. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic
At virtually every transition of his life, Washington assumed the power necessary to accomplish the next task, THEN gave that power back when the task was done. History notes that:
When the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia in May 1775, Washington, one of the Virginia delegates, was elected Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. On July 3, 1775, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, he took command of his ill-trained troops and embarked upon a war that was to last six grueling years.
After the surrender of the British at Yorktown in the summer of 1781, Washington remained encamped with the skeletal Continental Army until the Treaty of Paris was ratified by King George III in September 1783. Before it was ratified by the Continental Congress in January 1784, Washington submitted a letter of resignation as Commanding general. He said in part:
[To the Continental Congress]
[Annapolis, Md. 23 December 1783]
The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress & of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country. …
I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commanding the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those Who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action—and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
Washington longed to retire to his fields at Mount Vernon. But he soon realized that the Nation under its Articles of Confederation was not functioning well, so he became a prime mover in the steps leading to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. When the new Constitution was ratified, the Electoral College unanimously elected Washington President.
Washington served two terms as president. "The main charge levied against Washington," according to Joseph J. Ellis, "was that he made himself into a quasi king." Yet history records that while England had King George III, the newly United States would NOT have a King George IV in George Washington. Mr W was: "The Man Who Refused to Be King!" TO BE CONTINUED in next post ...
Abe Lincoln will be a little late for his 202nd Birthday (Feb 12th), but he will be early for Hermon MacNeil’s 145th birthday (Feb 27th).
University of Illinois officials will bring Hermon MacNeil’s bust of Old Abe out of “safe-keeping” to be displayed in Spurlock Museum starting at 1pm on Sunday February 20, 2011.
Illini news sources bill the event as “A Nose Waiting to Be Rubbed.”
A refurbished Lincoln bust will make a guest appearance at the Spurlock Museum. Who will be the first to rub Lincoln’s nose? The doors to the Spurlock Museum open at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 20, 2011.
Fans of the Lincoln bust in Lincoln Hall won’t have to wait until the building reopens in 2012 to rub its nose for luck. Beginning on February 20, the restored bust will greet visitors to U of I’s Spurlock Museum. The display will afford visitors a rare 360-degree view of the bust and will also offer the chance to restart an old tradition.
Source: LAS News http://www.las.illinois.edu/alumni/magazine/articles/2011/bust/
We at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com are pleased that our favorite sculptor’s bust of Lincoln will see the light of day and be out for Public review. We appreciate the care taken to protect this artwork during the renovation of Lincoln Hall on the Urbana Campus. For updates on the restoration go to: Lincoln Hall Project Website:
Previous Post: May 24, 2010 MacNeil Bust of Lincoln Stored in Vault
For a Series of All of our U of I – Lincoln Hall Posts see: https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/category/location/illinois/university-of-illinois/