Henri Crenier and John Gregory: Two Sculptors in MacNeil’s Atelier:By
Jo Davidson’s autobiography,“Between Settings,” gives us pictures of two sculptors in the MacNeil aletier: Henri Crenier and John Gregory.
By the time Jo Davidson begins working for MacNeil, he describes Henri as a taunter and teaser:
Henri Crenier took a special delight in teasing me. I liked him and took it good-naturedly. But one day I lost my temper and we came to blows. I knocked him down and relieved my feelings by giving him a healthy pummeling. I was so busy that I did not hear MacNeil come into the studio. Suddenly I heard him say: “ Jo, when you get through, will you mix me a little plaster.”
MacNeil comment appears to be rather calm considering the ruff-housing of his assistants. Very likely, he had observed their conflict previously. And on this occasion thought, Jo had made his feelings known sufficiently and offered him a diversion to move his assistants on to the next tasks in the studio.
Crenier’s Early Life
Before arriving in America and the College Point Studio, Henri’s early life began in Paris, France in 1873, Crenier studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts with Falguiere, who was also a teacher of Hermon MacNeil. Henri worked in the Asnières-sur-Seine (a commune on north Paris) and exhibited at the Paris Salon. Immigrating to the US in 1902, he entered the art community of New York City, eventually exhibiting with the National Sculpture Society.
In New York, Henri Crenier linked up quickly with Hermon MacNeil who was seven years his senior. Whether he knew of MacNeil from Falguiere at the Ecole des Beaux Arts or learned of him in New York at the Art Students League is uncertain. Jo Davidson’s narrative places him in MacNeil’s studio around 1902-1903 as a master sculptor.
Crenier’s Later Accomplishments
His solo work includes the James Fenimore Cooper Memorial in Scarsdale, New York, as well as his single largest commission, the two pediment sculptures in granite for the 1915 San Francisco City Hall. He also contributed to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) and designed the freestanding figure of Achievement (see photo below) This photo of Nemours Mansion & Gardens is courtesy of TripAdvisor and the statue stands at the Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware.
Henri Crenier went on to design and be chief sculptor of the San Francisco City Hall built after the 1906 earthquake. The regal structure soon became known as the “The People’s Palace.” Crenier’s design arose as an inspiring symbol of renewed hope in the heart of the city by the bay. This glorious gilded palace stood not for kings and queens, but for the people. For over a century since then all those who came were caught up in the Beaux Arts renaissance beauty of this public mansion. The video below tells the story of Henri Crenier’s design and direction of the construction of San Francisco City Hall (“Henri Crenier adds Beauty to San Francisco City Hall”; http://www.artandarchitecture-sf.com/henri-crenier-adds-beauty-to-san-francisco-city-hall.html Jan. 24, 2017)
No matter how far much San Francisco may claim his talents, Henri Crenier got his start in America in the College Point Studio of Hermon MacNeil some 3000 miles away.
The Folger Shakespeare Library has nine large sculptures carved in white Georgia marble along the front of the building. These are the work of John Gregory (1879 – 1958). Each bas relief sculpture depicts a scene from one of William Shakespeare’s plays. http://stationstart.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/cs_folger_panel_000-a.jpg
Going left to right across the front of the building and also from left to right in the 3 by 3 grid above starting with the top row:
1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
2. Romeo and Juliet
3. The Merchant of Venice
5. Julius Caesar
6. King Lear
7. Richard III
9. Henry IV, Part I
The Folger Shakespeare Library is located at 201 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC.
Gregory’s Statue of Anthony Wayne: In 1937 John Gregory sculpted this statue of Anthony Wayne for Philadelphia.
- Jo Davidson, Between Settings: an informal biography of Jo Davidson, New York: Dial Press, 1951. pp. 13-16.
- Lois Harris Kuhn, The World of Jo Davidson, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1958. pp
- Works of Sculptor John Gregory at Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.