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 and info about these works by MacNeil. ]

~ 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

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)  https://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)

 

 

 

 

 

The year 2016 marks the sesquicentennial of the birth of Hermon Atkins  MacNeil on February 27, 1886.

2016-rev-1

Hermon Atkins MacNeil about the time of his Standing Liberty works.

Hermon Atkins MacNeil about the time of his Standing Liberty works.

While we celebrate each February as “MacNeil Month,”  this year is extra special as the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Several events during 2016 will acknowledge that here on HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com:

.

 

  • The newly commissioned 2016 MacNeil Medallion will be available for sale on eBay.  CLICK HERE
  • Postings will continue to celebrate the life and art of Hermon A. MacNeil.
  • Kisimul Castle the home of the MacNeil Chieftans from the 14th century, will be featured.
  • The origins of the MacNeil Clan on the Isle of Barra in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides will be visited with photos and history .
  • The webmaster’s ongoing travels and activity will be presented as his “Search for Uncle Hermon” continues as a odyssey of retirement.
  • Antique “MacNeil Postcards” of some of his sculptures across the U. S. will be presented as features.
  • MacNeil’s years in Paris will be revisited with photos of the newly restored Ecole de Beaux Arts where he studied and taught.
  • MacNeil’s teachers in Paris will be featured with photos of their sculptures in the Musee d’Orsay in the center of Paris. This museum was built as the railroad station for the Universal Exposition of 1900 in which MacNeil and his contemporary sculptors exhibited and received prizes.
  • Our recent Travels to Scotland will be featured with photos and stories.
  • Our travels to France this year will be shared.

ALL in ALL, 2016 begins as a banner year for this website. SO stay tuned.

Better yet, SUBSCRIBE by clicking the button.

2016 marks a banner year for this website.

This February 27th, 2016 marks another anniversary of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil  our patron sculptor.

2016-rev-12016 actually celebrates the:

150th

Anniversary 

of the birth of

HERMON ATKINS Mac NEIL

In honor of this Anniversary, we have commissioned a MacNeil Medallion commemorating his birth and the Centennial of the first minting of the Liberty Standing Quarter.

This beautiful bronze medal features the image of MacNeil at about age 60.  It is plated in nickel and measures 3 inches (77 mm) in diameter.  

It is available on now eBay. CLICK HERE

The other side of the medallion celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the first mintings of the Standing Liberty Quarter.  BUT More About that later.

Upcoming: MacNeil Roots and Pursuits

2016-obs-1NOW ON eBay, (Click Here) This new Medallion is a bronze medal 3″ in diameter with nickel plating.  Minted in 2016, it commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, as well as, the 100th Centenary year of the Standing Liberty Quarter minted from 1916-1930.

The center of the face duplicates the obverse of MacNeil’s original sculpture of  Miss Liberty from 1916. The “M” at the bottom (to the right of the 13th star) is the only form of signature allowed for the sculptor.

2016-rev-1

The reverse features the central image of Hermon A. MacNeil (1886-1947) and denotes the 150th Anniversary of his birth. This sesquicentennial will be celebrated here at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com for the next 366 days of 2016.       [ CLICK HERE for eBay link ]

2016-obs-42016-obs-32016-rev-seq

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.

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