Archive for April, 2011
Here are two examples of Hermon A. Mac Neil’s 1931 Society of Medalists (SOM) Issue #3 entitled “Prayer for Rain” and “Hopi” on the reverse. These show two of the 4 varied patinas that MacNeil chose for the issue. (Thanks to Gilbert Shell for sharing these sources & interesting me in this MacNeil – SOM Issue #3)
The medals are slightly oval in shape. The Obverse, shown here in a striking orange patina, can be seen in the Chrysler Museum of Norfork, Virginia. In his design Hermon MacNeil, has recaptured his 1895 image of the Moqui Runner. The title, PRAYER FOR RAIN, portrays a group of young Hopis sprinting to the right; their hands filled with snakes. The Reverse side, shown in beautiful sea green patina, bears the title, “HOPI,” a more modern transliteration of “Moqui”. It shows a group of Hopi Indian dancers handling ritualistic snakes. It is owned by our webmaster.
In a 2005 article, David T Alexander, a widely published numismatic writer, described 4 different applied patinas that were offered for the 1,713 medals released in this issue. Here is an excerpt of Alexander’s article: (NOTE: In his comments, the usual ‘reverse’ and ‘obverse’ for this medal has been switched by this author.)
1931 #3. HERMON MacNEILL. Hopi Indian Prayer for Rain.
Obv Five Hopi rain dancers, two with snakes in their mouths, one crouching to gather up snakes for return to the cottonwood enclosure set up for the ceremony. Two other dancers distract mouth-held snakes with eagle feathers. MacNeil’s sky is adapted from Hopi sand painting showing stylized rain clouds and serpentine arrows of falling rain.
Incuse HOPI in exergue. Signature H A MACNEIL incuse lower r.
Rev Dancers race from mesa onto the desert, hands full of snakes to be returned to their dens. Lightning flashes above, incuse PRAYER (vertical) FOR RAIN in exergue.
MacNeil, best known to coin collectors for his Standing Liberty Quarter of 1916-1930, wrote, “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.”
MacNeil described the setting as the Kiva, An underground chamber. Members of the Snake and Antelope clans gathered snakes for six days from the compass points, above and below, “therefore from all the directions of the universe.” Poisonous snakes are included in the dance, distracted from the dancers holding them in their mouths by another dancer wielding an eagle feather. The artist witnessed several snakebites, which had no apparent effect on the exalted, fasting dancers.
MacNeil theorized that the wriggling serpent forms suggested the shape of lightning “snaking” earthward from the clouds, as seen in the sand art above. At the end of the prayer dance, the Indian raced out onto the desert, hands filled with snakes to be released into their dens as a rain cloud forms overhead. This is SOM’s first non-circular medal, showing a boldly ovoid shape. At least four distinctive patinas have been 16 observed on examples of the Hopi medal,
EDGE AND PATINA VARIETIES OBSERVED:
1. THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS THIRD ISSUE. Rounded rims. Light tan, sea green highlights. A.
2. Ditto. Light tan with hints of gold. A.
3. Ditto. Intense glossy hematite red. A.
4. Ditto. Bold sea-green, sharply squared rims. A.
- David T. Alexander, “The Art Medal Defined” in The Medal Collectors of America Advisory, Volume 8, Number 5, May 2005, pp. 10-12. (Thanks to Gilbert Shell for sharing this source and his interest in this SOM Issue #3)
- For more on SOM see: Samuel Pennington, “The Society of Medalists”
Hermon MacNeil’s bust of Abe Lincoln DID NOT go out for a walk in 1979. It WAS KIDNAPPED! [Since the bust has no legs, we thought the original “walk and fresh air” story was bogus in the first place.]
Holly Koreb, Senior Director, of the Office of Communications and Marketing at U of I’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, confirmed our suspicions in a message today. She has informed us (within the hour) that a public confession has been posted in audio on the LAS website. [ www.lincolnhall.illinois.edu/storyography ]
The anonymous culprit ‘claims’ to be a member of a group of ‘supposed’ pre-professionals who eventually formed themselves into the notorious Statue Liberation Society (hereafter the ‘S.L.S.’).
This student, now an alumnus, garbles on for 7 minutes and 22 seconds [ in a disguised voice] about a harmless prank that resulted in the kidnapping of the 16th President from his prominent perch in the circular stairwell of Lincoln Hall.
The disguised culprit, now in his seeming mid-life repose, says in part: “We alerted University police [of the bust’s whereabouts], and certainly we were not responsible for any damage or any scratches that appeared later.” —anonymous member of the Statue Liberation Society
This statement of ‘non-responsibility’ emits fumes of self-satisfaction, deception and a possible lack of understanding of “good clean fun”. (While we will defer to qualified historians of Illini lore for details on this organization, it does seem to be a post-incident fabrication to cover pranks that escalated to grand theft – not to mention the heinous act of kidnapping of a dead president.)
But in a conciliatory effort to NOT rub S.L.S. ‘noses’ in their infamous-hidden past, but to offer instead, a ‘fresh’ renovation to student life, we at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com propose:
- That the Statue Liberation Society (S.L.S.) anonymously raise a challenge-reparation of $50,000 to be contributed to the existing ‘Lincoln Hall Scholarship Fund’.
- That these donations be met and exceeded by matching gifts from the faculty, staff, alumni and students of U of I.
- That the S.L.S. then be invited to shed their cloak of anonymity in a true ‘Lincoln-Douglas’ style of honesty.
- And that a spirit of ‘New Beginning’ be initiated by all parties with a rub of Lincoln’s refurbished nose in his new perch at the dedication of the new Lincoln Hall.
We think even our ‘UNCLE HERMON’ would smile at a ‘prank’ like that. 😆
Good Clean Fun for the next student generation!
History books record it. ~~~ Public records document it.
~~~ But have you ever seen it?
In his 1904 book “The History of American Sculpture,” Lorado Taft reviews various works by our favorite sculptor ~~ Hermon A. MacNeil. Taft mentions:
“Two busts of women modelled by him are among the finest works yet produced by an American. Herbert Adams alone has surpassed the ” Agnese ” (Fig. 72), which was done in Rome from a patrician beauty, and exhibited at Buffalo in 1901. ” Beatrice,” a later work, is no less beautiful in execution, though somewhat strained in pose. These busts illustrate the artistic conscience of the sculptor, his delight as well as his skill in pure modelling. Earnest and industrious, he is blessed with a continuity of energy which counts for more than paroxysms of effort.” (p.445.)
Taft mentions that the “Agnese” was exhibited in the 1901 Pan American Exhibition (Buffalo World’s Fair). The image (Fig 72 in Taft’s book) may have come from that exhibition. We do not know the source of this image that Taft used. Nor over a century later, do we know of other images of “Agnese.”
This sculpture appears“Mysterious” in many ways.
- her smile seems both beguiling and alluring;
- the picture shows a sculpted bust that appears to stare unnervingly at the viewer;
- the stark, overhead lighting heightens or creates the sense of a stare;
- the background gives no hint of a context, a place, or any identifying features;
- her mysterious smile seems to imply a knowledge not shared with the viewer;
- the letters “AGNESE” on the corner of the base offer the only identity, yet itself a still a mystery.
Questions that remain in this stage of research include:
- What is the composition of this statue? Marble? Paster? Other?
- Why can we find no other pictures of this piece?
- Was there only an Original “Agnese” and no other copies?
- What was the fate of this statue?
- Is “Agnese” in private hands?
- Does she still exist?
Other than that, I have NO questions!
This is a real photo postcard of the
California Palace of the Legion of Honor San Francisco, California.
This is from the Exhibition of sculpture in 1929
Photographed by Gabriel Moulin
for the National Sculpture Society of America.
This sculpture is named Sun Vow by artist Hermon A. MacNeil.
Photographer: Gabriel Moulin.
This is the first MacNeil Postcard of a monthly series on this website. Digital images of several old postcards have been contributed to us for use here. They will highlight his sculptures and public monuments over the years.
Lorado Taft published this picture in his 1903 book, the History of American Sculpture. That book and this same picture were re-published in 1924, and 1930. It does little to flatter this sculpture which is the most photographed of all of MacNeil’s works. Here is a more colorful rendering.
Image credits: Gib Shell for this old MacNeil Postcard
and the colorful photo as well! Thanks Gib!
Sculptures that Hermon A. MacNeil’s exhibited for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
The above works that Hermon A. MacNeil’s exhibited in Buffalo for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition are listed in:
“The Catalogue of the Exhibition of Fine Arts.” Pan-American Exposition: Buffalo, 1901. (p. 45-46; p. 59).
pp. 45-4. 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.
Some of these people mentioned in that exhibition record were to be long term colleagues, friends and patrons of MacNeil’s art and career.
Charles Francis Browne was a painter and friend who accompanied Hermon MacNeil and author, Hamlin Garland, to the southwest in the summer of 1895. They wanted to gain direct experience of American Indians to inform their art. What the trio found reflected in their respective painting, sculpture and writing.
MacNeil’s subsequent sculptures of Native Americans after that summer of 1895 continued a cultural focus that began with his friendship and sculpting of Black Pipe, the Sioux warrior. He first met Black Pipe at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The Sioux modeled for MacNeil and later worked in his studio for over a year.
Edward Everett Ayers was an art patron to both MacNeil and Browne. He had been a Civil War Calvary officer stationed in the southwestern United States. He became a lumberman who made a fortune selling railroad ties and telephone poles. He urged MacNeil to travel to see the vanishing West of the American Indian. He became an arts benefactor whose art collections are now housed by the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as, the Newberry Library.
All the above is but a small part of the history woven into this simple Exhibition catalogue entry from 1901. More later on Macneil’s mysterious “Agnese.”