Archive for January, 2015
My recent post about our December 3rd journey on the CTA Blue Line train to the Chicago Loop and the Art Institute of Chicago ended with a discussion of “The Sun Vow” and my photo array taken in the Sculpture Court. [Searching for Uncle Hermon in Chicago ~ “The Sun Vow” ]
Another MacNeil piece just steps away in the adjoining American Gallery provides a “preface” to the story of “The Sun Vow”.
Modeled in 1894 that earlier piece was called “Vow of Vengeance.” It shows one of MacNeil’s early studies in Native American depiction. It followed his exposure to the Chicago World Fair, his fascination with sketching the Indians in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and his modeling work with Black Pipe. (Black Pipe was a young Sioux who worked in Hermon’s studio and modeled for several pieces during 1893-94. He helped with physical labor in the studio as well. CLICK for MORE on Black Pipe and “Primitive Chant”)
Several pieces dated 1894 seemed to be early prototypes for later larger works and castings. The “Vow of Vengeance” appears to be one of the more prominent. I know of no other copies elsewhere.
A blog about the Art Institute observes some mingling of the identity of the two pieces:
The Vow of Vengeance -1894
By Hermon Atkins MacNeil.
What’s in a name?
Well, somehow I noticed a discrepancy in the name..
The Art Institute website calls it – The Vow of Vengeance 
But marker at the Art Institute has the name – The Sun Vow [Modeled-1898, Cast-1901]. http://theartinstituteofchicago.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html.
While the “Vow of Vengeance” and “The Sun Vow” contain similar elements, what they communicate seems quite different:
- TITLE: The two titles carry contrasting emotional messages. The first (Vow of Vengeance) conveys negative aggression and hostile feeling toward some enemy, while the second (Sun Vow) depicts a more positive rite of passage from boyhood to manhood within a setting of family and tribal affirmation.
- GROUPING: The boy and the Elder (Warrior, Chief) are grouped to convey different emotional tones in the two pieces. In “Vengeance,” the chief wears his war bonnet on his head. He is dressed to present tribal authority to the enemy. His face seems harsh and his posture stiff. The Boy strains his head high up into the air. Their grouping seems tense. In “Sun Vow” the two figures are closer and seem to be “more one.” The Chief has removed his bonnet so as to lean into the boy’s line of sight. The boy is also more grace-full. He looks to the arrow and the sun without straining. Both gaze in the seeming wonder and mystical pleasure of the physical rite.
1894 ~ Prototype Year:
In addition to the “Vow of Vengeance” we have found evidence of another prototype from 1894.
A previous posting tells James Dixon’s story of a MacNeil piece acquired by his Great-great grandmother, Edna Lord. The sculpture bears the title “Primitive Music” on its base. [ CLICK Here for more ]
Photos on that previous post suggest that Edna Lord’s “Primitive Indian Music” was an early prototype of the “Primitive Chant” (which was much more polished and finely surfaced)
It is also based on “Black Pipe”, the young Sioux Brave. MacNeil first saw Black Pipe at the Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and we know that he returned many times to study the Indians. Like MacNeil, I have return to this story of “Black Pipe”, the young Sioux Brave, numerous times, and perhaps, will return many more. ~~ DNL
Hermon MacNeil ~ After the World’s Columbian Exposition
The period after the end of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was a lean, even dry time, financially for Hermon MacNeil. We do know that he continued to maintain a studio, sculpt models, teach at the Art Institute of Chicago, and associate with art colleagues and benefactors there. Yet, it seems a productive time of transition, expression, and experimentation for the as the young sculptor.
Traveling to the Art Museum, we walked out of the underground on Dearborn Street just a block south of the Marquette Building which is home to Hermon MacNeil’s 1895 sculptures of 4 bronze relief panels [Cick Here]. This commission marked his recognition and selection for the award of the Rinehart Roman Scholarship. This began 3 years in Rome and another in Paris for he and his young bride, Carol Brooks. The bronze reliefs stands today as an icon to Marquette and his life among the Native peoples. The building has been restored by the MacArthur Foundation and now houses their international headquarters.
Those works tell the story Father Marquette explorations to Native peoples of Illinois. MacNeil would return to Chicago and the Marquette themes three decades later as he sculpted the bronze grouping [CLICK HERE] of Pere Marquette, Louis Jolliete, and an Illinois Indian on Marshall Boulevard. Commissioned by the Benjamin Franklin Ferguson Monument Fund, this sculpture has faced the greenway of the boulevard for 88 years.