Archive for December, 2011
December 21st marks the Birthday of Roger Williams (theologian, teacher, preacher, linguist, pioneer, reformer, and spiritual seeker after God).
Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s bust sculpture of Roger Williams ( made in 1920) is only 91 years old, but the man himself was born 317 years earlier on December 21, 1603. (That is a lot of candles to have on a cake).
The sculpture of Williams is one of four that MacNeil made for the Hall. His other subjects were: James Monroe, Francis Parker, and Rufus Choate.
Many of MacNeil’s contemporaries sculptors were commissioned for works at the colonnade: Daniel Chester French, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, A. Stirling Calder, James Earle Fraser, Frederick William MacMonnies, Lorado Taft, and Adolph Weiman. The Hall of Fame is also a virtual “Who’s Who” of American Sculptors.
Over one hundred sculptures line the 630 foot long open-air colonnade. The NeoClassical arc walkway was designed in 1900 on the undergraduate campus of New York University, now Bronx Community College.
The Hall has not added any sculptures since 1975 but remains a stunning collection of American Renaissance art and history. See the articles below for more on both Roger Williams and the Hall of Fame of Great Americans.
- See original photo by Librado Romero/The New York Times at:
University Heights Journal; “A Hall of Fame, Forgotten and Forlorn”
- Wikipedia comments on Roger Williams
- Nick Gier at NewWest offers a this summary of Roger Williams
In December 1895,
- Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s four bas relief panels depicting the life of Fr. Pére Marquette were put in place on the new Marquette Building in Chicago.
- He received word that he had been awarded the Rinehart Prize for study in Rome.
- On Christmas Day he married Carol Louise Brooks, a sculptor herself, who studied with MacNeil and shared many of the same colleagues.
- On New Years Day, or there about, they sailed for Rome and what would become 3 years of further study there, then going to Paris for a fourth year and exhibiting at the Exposition Universelle of 1900.
While we can imagine Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s state of mind in December 1895 to be quite elated, we have actual historical reference on MacNeil’s mood written by Amy Aldis Bradley, another artist friend who completed art for the Marquette project.
Amy Aldis Bradley wrote in 1895 to Peter Brooks, developer for the new Marquette Building in Chicago and employer of her father, stating the following:
“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 [Rinehart] 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.” (Based of information from the MacArthur Foundation, current owner and curator of the Marquette Building, cited at their website: (http://marquette.macfound.org/slide/herman-macneil/ )
Hermon and Carol obtained a marriage license on Christmas Eve Day (Dec. 24th). They were married on Christmas Day. The dates seem to imply that they had a wedding ‘not long in the planning.’
Christmas Day in 1895, fell on a Wednesday. The following Wednesday, of course, was New Years Day. We do not have other confirmation that they sailed on New Years Day for France, but it seems to be consistent with plans to go to Rome quickly. The article below was written on December 19th, then published on December 22, 1895 in the NY Sun. The reporter states that MacNeil would like to leave for Rome in about a week. That is consistent with the other evidence.
We know that MacNeil inquired of the Rinehart Committee if he could still fulfill the Rinehart Award conditions if he was a married man. They suggested that it would be a one year award under those conditions. As it turned out he was given three years. We do not know if he their fourth year spent in Paris was at their own expense or financed on their own.
The full text of the December 22, 1895 article that appeared in the New York Sun is posted below. In it the reporter states:
“When found in his studio yesterday, the young sculptor was busily at work on a crude mass of clay, from which were gradually emerging the features and forms of a Pueblo Indian. He was surrounded by a miscellaneous assortment of tools, plaster, and casts. He left his work to discuss his good fortune.”
Here is is in its entirety. Enjoy!
December 22, 1895 – New York Sun, (CLICK HERE) see columns 5 and 6
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).