Archive for San Francisco
“The Sun Vow”, Hermon MacNeil’s earliest acclaimed work, was exhibited around the world and still can be visited in museums and galleries today. This old photo postcard was purchased recently by the editor.
“The Sun Vow” is pictured here in an early B&W Postcard by photographer Gabriel Moulin.
The likeness probably dates from the 1929 Exhibition of the National Sculpture Society at the newly completed California Palace of Legion of Honor, San Francisco.
The “Sun Vow” was also exhibited by MacNeil in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, as well as, Exhibitions in Paris, Buffalo, and Saint Louis. The story of California Palace and its permanent reconstruction is an interesting one:
“The California Palace of the Legion of Honor originated as the French pavilion in San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Alma de Bretteville Spreckels was so impressed with the pavilion that she offered to construct a permanent museum in its likeness, which was completed in 1924 and now stands as the Legion of Honor.”
Thus the 1929 exhibit gave birth to this historic photo by Moulin. An previous image of this postcard was posted several years ago on this website at [click here]
Of the many spectacular architectural creations that towered over San Francisco at the Pan-Pacific Exposition in 1915, perhaps “The Column of Progress” was one of the more unusual, at least by American standards.
MacNeil’s finial sculpture, “The Adventurous Bowman” atop the column was regarded as “the most splendid expression of sculpture and architectural art in the Exposition.”
The Exposition was a celebration of American achievement in the completion of the Panama Canal, thus the ‘Pan-Pacific’ designation.
In her 1915 book, “Sculpture of the Exposition: Palaces and Courts” author Juliet Helena (Lumbard) James stated:
The prototype of this column is seen in Trajan’s Column in the Forum of Trajan or in the Column of Marcus Aurelius, in Rome.
Both of these ancient prototypes are ‘old world’ symbols of imperial pride for military conquests. Both are in Rome within a mile of each other. Both would be in the familiar foreground during MacNeil’s studies in Rome (1896-99). Perhaps the same could be said for many other sculptors who designed the PPIE and also studied in Rome.
In addition the Column of Marcus Aurelius bears a prototypical resemblance, though perhaps less spectacular.
For video of the Art of Exposition pictured in James’ book see: Juliet Helena (Lumbard) James, Art of the Exposition
Karl Bitter, a longterm colleague of MacNeil’s, organized the overall planning of sculpture for PPIE .
“After working as a sculptor at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and as director at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901, Bitter’s extraordinary organizational skills led him to be named head of the sculpture programs at both the 1904 St. Louis Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, where Lee Lawrie trained with his guidance, and the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco, California. In 1906/1907, he presided the National Sculpture Society.”
[ Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Bitter ]
Both Bitter and MacNeil were based in New York City. They worked on at least four world’s fairs together. Both were elected president of the National Sculpture Society – Bitter in 1906-7, MacNeil in 1910-12 and again 1922-24.
While Karl Bitter was the designated the “Chief of Sculpture of the Exposition,” A. Stirling Calder, another one of MacNeil ‘s colleagues and former students, was called, “The man at the wheel in the management of all the works of sculpture at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.” Bitter was tragically struck by a car in NYC and killed before the PPIE work was completed. Leadership for the completion of the Exposition sculptures then fell on the shoulders of his young assistant, A. Stirling Calder .
Architect – Symmes Richardson, one of the junior partners of the firm of McKim, Meade and White of New York designed the column structurally. This was the architectural firm of “The White City” of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. That event jump-started MacNeil’s career as well as those of many artists and sculptors of that era.
The postcard pictured above identifies the Column sculptor as Alexander Stirling Calder. He and MacNeil would later collaborate on their paired statues of George Washington “at War” and “at Peace” for the Washington Arch in New York City. By 1914 MacNeil had already begun working on his ‘General Washington’ statue erected in 1916. Calder’s ‘President Washington’ would be placed on the Arch two years later. Stanford White, another architect from McKim, Mead and White designed the Washington Arch.
Juliet James offers a detailed interpretation and description of the “Column of Progress” in her book.
“The Column of Progress”
The bas-reliefs at the base are by Isadore Konti of New York. The sum of all human effort is represented. Man’s spiritual progress is seen on the four sides of the base. Atlas rolling the heavens suggests the passage of time. Men with their different ideals in the long procession of progress are seen. Some go manfully on, some fearfully, some feel the need of the sword to win their way, others find companions necessary, but all of these men and women must have faith (represented by the two meaningful women at the door), the hope of the palm of victory, and hear the bugle call as they go on their upward climb. They pass before us, these men and women of different aspirations, and disappear from view. Up, up they climb. At the top of the column is Hermon A. McNeil’s Burden Bearers, supporting his Adventurous Bowman. “All must toil to win” and some must bend their backs that others may rise. Has it not been so at the Panama Canal? Have not many done the labor that the United States, the Adventurous Bowman, may win? This purposeful type of manhood, with magnificent decision, has just drawn the bow, and on has sped the arrow of success. The bowman looks to see it hit the mark. The man on the right possibly is one of his aids. The little woman at his side will know by his eyes if the arrow has gone home, and she will then bestow upon him the laurel wreath and the palm of victory which she holds in her hand. She stands ready to help him. See the group from the sea-wall directly in front of the Column of Progress for the splendid purpose expressed in the figure and on the face of the “Adventurous Bowman.” Many San Franciscans would like to have this wonderful group duplicated in bronze to remain permanently with the city of the Exposition of 1915.”
While not a part of the Column of Progress, MacNeil’s “Signs of the Zodiac” were also an appreciated part of his contribution to the Exposition. This sculpture was destroyed as well. [This is the only surviving photo that I have found to date – Webmaster.]