WELCOME to the “Hermon A. MacNeil” — Virtual Gallery & Museum !

~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American sculptor of the Beaux Arts School. MacNeil led a generation of sculptors in capturing many fading Native American images and American history in the realism of this classic style.

~ World’s Fairs, statues, public monuments, coins, and buildings across to country. Hot-links (on the lower right) lead to photos & info of works by MacNeil.

~ Hundreds of stories and photos posted here form this virtual MacNeil Gallery of works all across the U.S.A.  New York to New Mexico — Oregon to South Carolina.

~ 2016 marked the 150th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth on February 27,

Take a Virtual Journey

This website seeks to transport you through miles and years with a few quick clicks of a mouse or keyboard or finger swipes on an iPad.

Perhaps you walk or drive by one of MacNeil's many sculptures daily. Here you can gain awareness of this artist and his works.

For over one hundred years his sculptures have graced our parks, boulevards, and parkways; buildings, memorials, and gardens; campuses, capitols, and civic centers; museums, coinage, and private collections.

Maybe there are some near you!

Archive for MacNeil Month

I never met Hermon MacNeil.

I never met my maternal grandfather, Tom Henry McNeil.  

ALL OF LIFE and our family histories are filled with people we HAVE NEVER MET.

In 2014 I wrote an article for the MacNeil Clan Magazine,

The Galley.

I include the the pages and the text of that article below in this post:

The photos can also be viewed in this previous post. 

Hermon Atkins MacNeil – American Sculptor – (1866-1947)

MacNeil Clan history, like all family history, is filled with people we have never met.  One MacNeil who has always fascinated me is Hermon Atkins MacNeil.  Researching “Uncle” Hermon has also led me to another amazing man, Robert Lister MacNeil. Both men were present when the Clan MacNeil Association was formed ninety-three years ago. 

MacNeil kinsman.

On May 26, 1921, the Clan MacNeil Association of America was organized in New York City.  Central to that moment were Robert Lister MacNeil, (The MacNeil of Barra – 45th Chief of the Clan), and Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a sculptor, who served as the clan’s first president.  At that time, Robert Lister was 32 years of age, a practicing architect in New York City, and a veteran of the First World War. He had succeeded to the chiefship of the Clan MacNeil just six years earlier.  His dreams of the Isle of Barra and restoring Kisimul Castle (as told in his book The Castle in the Sea) were but faint hopes that would await decades and the efforts of many MacNeils for their accomplishment.

Dan “Neil” Leininger in a MacNeil kilt at Kisimul Castle, Isle of Barra, Scotland 2014. WHAT A TOUR it was!!!

His other kinsman was Hermon Atkins MacNeil. Hermon was the older of the two, an accomplished sculptor, also practicing in New York City, he had already created a myriad of statues, sculptures, monuments, as well as, the U.S. Standing Liberty Quarter first minted in 1916.  Although these two MacNeils were 23 years apart in age, they were both trained in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, a school for architects and sculptors in the Classic Greco-Roman styles.  A lasting bond between them formed through their shared artistic talents, professional skills, and years of Clan MacNeil activity.

Hermon MacNeil designed a bronze plaque that was unveiled and dedicated on May 28, 1928 on the campus of Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, NC. The plaque commemorated the 1735 landing of Neil MacNeil of Jura, Scotland with 350 followers.  This group made up mostly of clan members landed at the Cape Fear Settlement in North Carolina. The plaque was placed on a red granite stone and marked another clan project shared by these two men.

In his later years, Robert Lister stated: “Hermon was an outstanding sculptor and one of my dearest friends all the rest of his life.”  In 1970, six years after publishing those words, Robert Lister MacNeil died at the age of 81.  Twenty-three years earlier (in 1947), Hermon Atkins MacNeil had died, also at the same age of 81.  All of the above was discovered as I “searched for Uncle Hermon.” I never met either of these two MacNeil men. The more I learn of them both, the more striking I find the parallels in their lives.

MacNeil roots. The third MacNeil man that I never met was my own grandfather, Tom Henry McNeil (1860-1932). Whenever my mother spoke of her father or of her “Uncle Hermon,” I would see a certain smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye.  Emotionally, recalling her McNeil memories seemed to take her to “a very pleasant place.” On the MacNeil family tree, her father and Hermon MacNeil were first cousins. But “Uncle Hermon” was what the whole family always called him and what he always considered himself to be. Though she did not share them often, my mother’s stories instilled in me a sense of “wonder” about these two “MacNeil” men. 

Genetically, my mother gave all of us six children her MacNeil biology, but when I first realized that my parents also gave me the middle name of “Neil,” I felt some extra portion of my Scottish ancestry. That feeling has only grown as I get older.  My grandfather McNeil died before I was born.  I was just two years old when Hermon MacNeil died.  Now as an old man myself this MacNeil heritage and my memories of the sparkle in mother’s eyes have expanded my interest in these three MacNeils, and in the many other MacNeils that I have yet to meet.

MacNeil pursuits. So I am pursuing my MacNeil Clan interests in several ways.  In 2010 I formally began searching for “Uncle Hermon” by building a “digital gallery” of the life and work as a sculptor. I built HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com, a website dedicated to making his sculpture and career available to the world. A web search of the name “Hermon MacNeil” will take you there.  His sculptures, statues, monuments are scattered from Washington, DC to Portland, Oregon, and from New York City to Gallup, New Mexico.  Now this virtual gallery features over 500 photos and 125 stories of Hermon MacNeil’s life and work.  There you can see his statues of George Washington from Washington Arch, NYC; Ezra Cornell at Cornell University, William McKinley at Columbus, Ohio; Abraham Lincoln at Champaign, Illinois; Pony Express at St. Joseph, Missouri; Pere Marquette in Chicago; and monuments in Philadelphia, Charleston, Albany, and Flushing, and dozens of other cities.

In 2013 I became a member of the Clan MacNeil Association of America.  I did not know its existence until I saw the 1928 news story of the MacNeil plaque dedication in Red Springs.  For the last three yearsI have shared “MacNeil stories” at our annual family reunion of my siblings and our children and grand children.  In August 2013 I went to my first Highland Festival. My nephew in Colorado  told me about the attended the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Fest in Estes Park.  What a great celebration of Celtic pride and heritage.

Donna and I have booked our spots on the 2014 MacNeil Clan Tour of Scotland.  We reserved our passage before I received the Fall/Winter issue of The Galley with Rory MacNeil’s invitation to the World Gathering of the Clan MacNeil on the Isle of Barra from August 4-7, 2014.  We hope to meet some of you there this summer.

  1. I joined Clan MacNeil Association I have attended the 2013 Estes Park Highland Fest
  2. I have booked spots for Donna and I on the 2014 MacNeil Clan Tour of Scotland
  3. I continue to research HAM

TODAY marks the  153rd anniversary of the birth

of Hermon Atkins MacNeil

Hermon A. MacNeil Commemorative sketched by Artist Charles D. Daughtrey as the seventh work in his Series of Coin Designers is available at http://www.cdaughtrey.com/

AND THE 10th Year of my Search for “Uncle Hermon”
for whom this website is dedicated.

For a brief summary of his life and work click here for => A Brief Bio of Hermon Atkins MacNeil 

This website also is inspired by the memory of my mother, Ollie McNeil Leininger.

I remember my mother telling me about her “Uncle Hermon.” 

She handed me some Liberty Standing Quarters”  from her grocery change and showed me the little “M” at the left foot of Lady Liberty.

She showed me “The Sun Vow” statue in the Saint Louis Art Museum.  We also visited The Pony Express” statue in St. Joseph, Missouri.  I grew up with a sense of pride and quiet fascination with mom’s “Uncle Hermon” 

I never met “Uncle Hermon”

Hermon A. MacNeil died on October 2, 1947 at the age of 81 years, 7 months, and 8 days.  On the day that he died I was just two years-old.

To read the whole article, Click and open in a separate window

My own Mother died years later in the winter of 1985. At that time, I wrote:

With her passing a warm, safe feeling faded from my world. I was the “baby” of her six children. Her death ushered in feelings of being a midlife orphan who would soon turn forty. Darkness seemed to creep in from the far corners of my life. A strange fearful child inside of me said, “Who will take care of me now?”

 

As the years passed, I would think of mom, and occasionally, of her “Uncle Hermon.”

By the turn of the 2K millennium, computers and the internet had become household items.  This allowed people to hunt, find, and save data.  I found fascinating stories about Hermon Atkins MacNeil. Virtually anything from anywhere could be researched. 

In 2010, I met Dan DeBlock. He is a retired Army Chaplain and Lutheran Minister who builds websites for churches.  It started as a hobby interest and became Leiturgia Communications, Inc. The Host and Tech Support for this website.

One day I asked Dan DeBlock, “Could a website be built as virtual gallery of the sculpture of Hermon Atkins MacNeil?”

Nine years and 170 stories later, “HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com” is the answer to my question and Dan’s hosting.

In that year (2010), I seriously began my “Searching for Uncle Hermon.”

That journey continues.  This is story # 171 – A Birthday Present for Hermon Atkins MacNeil.

This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American sculptor of the Beaux Arts School.

 

This Feb 27th of 2018 marks the 152 Anniversary of the birth of HERMON ATKINS MacNEIL. We celebrate with a little MacNeil history.

American sculptor of hundreds of pieces and monuments all over this country, 1st President of the Clan MacNeil Association of America,

Eight years ago this website started gathering the many images and stories associated with his life and work.  The Clan name traces back to to the Island of Barra in the Western Hebrides of Scotland.

The Kisimul Castle in Castle Bay was restored by the MacNeil of Barra XLV –Robert Lister MacNeil.  The story of the Clan and the Castle are told in his book, Castle in the Sea: The Macneil of Barra XLV, published in 1964.  His son Ian Roderick Macneil, Chief, Clan Macneil, published a revised 2nd edition 1975.

The Kisimul Castle is featured in cameo on this postcard “The Macneil” by Raphael Tuck and Sons. (Publishers to their Majesties the King and Queen) as part of their series “SCOTTISH CLANS.” Series VI; Postcard 9481.

The reverse of this never used postcard contains a Clan history of the two branches of the MacNeils:

No Date is found on the Postcard

MacNeil Chief greets visitors arriving to the Kisimul Castle for the 2014 Gathering of the MacNeil Clan.

The 2014 Gathering of the Clan was celebrated at the Castle and across Barra. I had the priviledge to attend the festivities and to tour Scotland for three weeks with Donna, my wife.  It was a memorable trip of a lifetime and an inauguration of our retirement years.

Webmaster, Daniel Neil Leininger in kilt at Kisimul Castle in the summer of 2014.

 

 

Jo Davidson’s autobiography,“Between Settings,” gives us pictures of two sculptors in the MacNeil aletier: Henri Crenier and John Gregory.

Henri Crenier

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

AUTOPORTRAIT EN UNIFORME DU LYCÉE LAKANAL À LA CHAPELLE-D'ANGILLON - Henri Crenier

AUTOPORTRAIT EN UNIFORME DU LYCÉE LAKANAL À LA CHAPELLE-D’ANGILLON – Henri Crenier

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

James Fenimore Cooper Memorial in Scarsdale, NY, By Henri Crenier (1873-1948)  http://www.hermonatkinsmacneil.com/?attachment_id=9006

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.

 

"Nemours

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 adds Beauty to San Francisco City Hall

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.

John Gregory 

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

 

Folger Shakespeare Library lighting the last four of John Gregory sculpture Panels and Capitol Dome at night.

Nine Marble Nine Bas Relief Sculptures Along the Front of the Folger Shakespeare Library

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
4. Macbeth
5. Julius Caesar
6. King Lear
7. Richard III
8. Hamlet
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. 

In 1937 John Gregory sculpted this statue of Anthony Wayne for Philadelphia. CREDIT: By Michael Murphy, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16312124

SOURCES:

  1. Jo Davidson, Between Settings: an informal biography of Jo Davidson, New York: Dial Press, 1951. pp. 13-16.
  2. Lois Harris Kuhn, The World of Jo Davidson, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1958. pp
  3.  http://wikivisually.com/wiki/Henri_Crenier
  4. Works of Sculptor John Gregory at Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
  5. http://stationstart.com/2010/02/folger-marble-sculpture/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gregory_(sculptor)

“The Coming of the White Man in Washington Park, Portland, Oregon. This photo shows the legs of the Indian on the left which Jo Davidson painfully modeled in plaster casts. The title is sculpted into the base. The whole group sits on a boulder that MacNeil crafted for the setting from a granite quarry up the Columbia River granite. The granite came to the Park by barge. Then, a team of horses brought it up the hillside, all under MacNeil’s direction and supervision

Jo Davidson continues the narrative of his adventures working in the  Studio of Hermon MacNeil:

Besides being a gardener, a sculptor’s assistant and an errand boy, I also became a model. Henri Crenier had noticed my legs one day while we were swimming and insisted they were just right for the young Indian in ‘The Coming of the White Man.’ MacNeil thought he could save time by making a plaster cast of my legs.

So Gregory and Crenier volunteered to do the job, claiming to be experts in casting from life. I was innocent and did not realize what I was up against. I was rather hairy, and they rather haphazardly rubbed the oil over my legs. That done, they covered my legs with plaster, and as the plaster set, the string that was to separate the two halves of the mold broke. Their fun increased as my temper rose, but I was in plaster up to my loins and was helpless. After setting the plaster became very hot and disagreeable. Mr. Gregory and Mr. Crenier chopped gleefully away, separating the two parts. Having completed that part of the job to their satisfaction, they proceeded to take the mold off my legs. The pain was excruciating, for the hair got mixed up with the plaster and as they pulled the mold off of me my hair went with it. I screamed and swore at them, but my anger only made them laugh louder. They finally got the mold off, leaving my legs like two boiled lobsters. The cast turned out to be a very hairy one. I saw those legs many years later in MacNeil’s studio, and I swear they were hairier than ever!

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.”

The summer passed quickly. Those were rich and full days. I was sure of my vocation. I was going to be a sculptor.”

Jo Davidson

Thus in his own words, Jo Davidson recounts becoming the unwitting model for the legs of this younger Indian. 

Jo Davidson sculpting a young Frank Sinatra. (1946) – http://www.highlands-gallery.com/jo-davidson

The plaster casts were made on his very hairy legs.  It proved a painful adventure for the naive teen.  Humored by the absurd scene, the “experienced” sculptors laughed at his embarrassment and discomfort as they removed the plaster casts with his leg hair embedded.

Despite the teasing, Jo Davidson went on to study sculpture, develop his talents, and find his unique place as a sculptor doing what he loved.

The MacNeil Studio no longer stands. In it’s nearly fifty years beside the East River Sound, many sculptor assistants, sculptures, and models of works were shaped in that place.

Postcard of MacNeil studio in College Point. From the webmaster’s collection.

This postcard and the Christmas card of 1912, posted on December 22, 2016, show the exterior of the studio. Pictures of the inside of MacNeil’s studio are rare.

However, one word picture offers a captivating account from about 1902-1903.   (Jo Davidson, Between Sittings, Dial Press: New York, 1941).

As an 18 year-old struggling artist, Jo Davidson aspired to become a sculptor. (http://www.highlands-gallery.com/jo-davidson) 

Though young, he was outgoing, naively confident, and very determined. In his autobiography he shares a fascinating encounter with Hermon MacNeil. Davidson gives a vivid description of both of MacNeil’s studios on Fifty-fifth Street and in College Point. Davidson eventually went on to become a renowned portrait sculptor of over 250 world leaders.  See him below sculpting a bust of General Eisenhower nearly fifty years later.  However, his initial impressions upon MacNeil were much less inspiring. Davidson recounts their meeting with understated humor:

Jo Davidson making a bust of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1948) SOURCE: Laurant Davidson ( http://www.highlands-gallery.com/jo-davidson )

“On my first visit to New York, I went to the Art Students League and inquired who taught the sculpture class. I was told Herman [sic] A. MacNeil. They gave me his address, the Holbein Studios over the stables on West Fifty-fifth Street. I went to call on him to see if I could get a job in his studio. He asked me whether I had ever done any modeling, and remembering Mister Broadman’s encouragement, I told him I had. MacNeil looked at me quizzically and said, ‘I have to go out for a bit.’ He handed me a blueprint, saying, “ See what you can do with this,’ and took me to a stand piled up with plasticine – the beginning of a Corinthian capital. Then Mac Neil left.”

 “I had never seen a blueprint before in my life. I tried to figure it out, but it was hopeless. I looked around the studio. There were bronze statuettes of Indians; scale models of monuments; photographs of executed work; and some portrait heads. I was fascinated and impressed. I made up my mind to get a job with that man.”

 “I struggled with my Corinthian capital but got nowhere. In the midst of this Mr. MacNeil returned. He looked at the sorry mess I had made of his model, shook his head and asked, ‘How much do you expect to earn in a week?’”

 “I meekly suggested fifteen dollars.

He said, ‘Young man, you will never make that at sculpture.’

I asked him what he would give me, taking for granted that a job was there for me. He was taken unawares and said, ‘Six dollars a week.’ I accepted. He looked defeated and said, ‘All right, Come in Monday morning.’”

 “I went home elated and told my people I had found a job in a great sculptor’s studio. Though they did not approve, I think they caught my enthusiasm; I could hardly wait for Monday morning. At the appointed time, I rang the studio bell. The door opened and Mr. MacNeil stuck his head out of the door scowling.

‘I’ve thought it over,’ he said. ‘You are not worth it.’

I followed him into the studio.

‘What am I worth?’ I asked

‘Four dollars.’

‘All right, I’ll take it’

He gave up. ‘All right, you go to my studio in College Point, Long Island and see Mr. [John] Gregory. Tell him you are the new studio boy.’

The ride was long and expensive, a carfare, a ferry and another carfare I arrived at the MacNeil house, which was on the Sound, in Long Island, and finally found Mr. Gregory

Mr. Gregory was rather brusque: ‘Come on, hang up your things,’ he said, and he introduced me to Henri Crenier, the master sculptor.”

Davidson goes on to describe the MacNeil Studio and his early experiences there. His word picture shares some similarities of old Smithsonian archive photos. 

The Poppenhusen Institute houses this plaster model of “A Chief of the Multnomah” donated in 1920 by MacNeil. It represents half of the “Coming of the White Man” grouping comissioned in 1904 for the City of Portland, Oregon by the family of David P. Thompson. (photo courtesy of Bob Walker, College Point)

  

“The studio was a huge barn of a place or, so it appeared to me then. It was full of work in progress. There was the ‘Fountain of Liberty’ which Mr. MacNeil was making for the coming World’s Fair in St. Louis. It consisted of colossal rampant sea-horses, cavorting over a cascade of waves, sea formations and variegated seashells. At the other end of the studio there was an immense group in clay of two Indians – an older Indian standing on his tiptoes with his arms folded across his chest, looking into the distance, the younger Indian with his left hand on the old man’s shoulder and in his right hand waving an olive branch. The title of the group was ‘The Coming of the White Man.’ There were plaster molds and sketches of details of other projects.”

I was bewildered.  John Gregory woke me out of my trance and took me down to the cellar where he was working on some plaster moldings. It didn’t take him long to discover that I knew nothingbut he sensed my eagerness and was quick to give me advise and information. When I got home , I talked everybody’s ear off, but my sister Ray was the only one who listened sympathetically.   She wanted to know all about it and there was so much to tell.” 

STAY TUNED FOR “SO MUCH MORE TO TELL”

SOURCE:  Jo Davidson, Between Sittings: An Informal Autobiography (Dial Press: New York, 1951. Pp.13-16)

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT YOU FIND HERE.

Nearby or far away, there is no ONE place to go and appreciate this wide range of art pieces. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and hidden, these creations point us toward the history and values in which our lives as Americans have taken root.

Webmaster: Daniel Neil Leininger ~ HAMacNeil@gmail.com
Hosting & Tech Support: Leiturgia Communications, Inc.
COME BACK & WATCH US GROW

WE DESIRE YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOS – Suggestions

1. Take digital photos of the entire work from several angles, including the surroundings.
2. Take close up photos of details that capture your imagination.
3. Look for MacNeil’s signature, often on bronze works. Photograph it too! See examples above.
4. Please, include a photo of yourself and/or those with you standing beside the work.
5. Add your comments or a blog of your adventure. It adds personal interest for viewers.
6. Send photos to HAMacNeil@gmail.com Contact me there with any questions. ~~ Webmaster