Archive for World’s Fairs
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.
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).
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:
“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
‘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.”
“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.
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.
On Christmas Day one dozen decades ago, Hermon A. MacNeil and Carol Louise Brooks were married in Chicago, Illinois. The pair were both sculptors who met while working on the World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893, better known as the Chicago World’s Fair.
Carol was a student of Lorado Taft and became one of the White Rabbits. These female sculptors were hired (commissioned) to help finish the 100’s of sculptures needed to finish the buildings, fountains, arcades, for the White City of the Chicago Worlds Fair.
Previous postings celebrate this MacNeil-Brooks Wedding:
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.
I sit here in Chicago during this Christmas Season, imagining a Christmas wedding ceremony one hundred and nineteen years ago.
On Christmas Eve day in 1895, Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Carol Louise Brooks purchased a Cook County license to solemnize their marriage. The very next day, Christmas 1895, they shared their vows before God and a Congregational minister named, Edward F. Williams, here in Chicago. The record looks like this:
Both Hermon and Carol were sculptors. Hermon had completed 4 bronze relief sculpture panels for the new Marquette Building. They had fellow friends among the art community, sculptor colleagues from the Chicago World’s Fair, students and teachers from the Art Institute of Chicago, and “White Rabbits” team of women sculptors. We don’t have any record of who might have witnessed their nuptials.
But it was Christmas Day, a time when families gather. Hermon’s family was far away in Massachusetts. Carol’s was born in Chicago and studied there at the Art Institute with Lorado Taft working on the 1893 Worlds Fair with her “White Rabbit” colleagues. Perhaps some friends or family were present or even hosted some wedding celebration. Her parents were close enough to be present, but no evidence suggests that. It appears to have been a quick, quiet, modest ceremony. The less than a one-day turn around on their marriage license would support that. In addition, we know that they sailed a week later for Rome and Hermon’s Roman Reinhart Scholarship studies there. A December 22, 1895 – New York Sun, article (CLICK HERE) supports that as well as a letter from Amy Ardis Bradley [ CLICK for MORE ]
The officiating minister, Rev. Edward (Franklin) Williams appears to have been a prominent clergy described as “a Congregational minister, educator, field agent for the United States Christian Commission, missionary, and writer.” ( Source: Edward Franklin Williams papers, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana ) He wrote Carol’s name as “Carrie” in his handwritten certification on the bottom of the license. She went by ‘Carrie’ among her friends.
Whether Rev. Williams considered her a ‘friend’ we do not know. Philip Khopf, the Cook County clerk, wrote ‘Carol’ in the top portion of the certificate. Rev. Williams could have copied “Carol” from the official record above, but chose to use ‘Carrie’ instead. The license lists Carol as being 24 years of age and Hermon as 29. We know that the minister was 63 years of age when he led their ceremony. Until 1891 he was pastor of the South Congregational Church, in suburban Chicago. For health reasons he had “an extended stay abroad (June, 1891 to July, 1893), primarily in Germany, where he pursued studies in Berlin.” Returning to Chicago he studied and lectured at Chicago Theological Seminary during 1894.
Whether Rev. Williams had some previous knowledge with Carrie and Hermon or was a friend of the family, is uncertain. He seemed very connected to the Chicago community and many of the potential benefactors of the arts. At a minimum, his use of “Carrie” seems to indicate a ‘cordial’ style of ministry and interaction. It also seems consistent with his servant-attitude toward needs of the soldiers and wounded he encountered during the Civil War.
More biographical information on Rev. Williams is offered below.
Williams, Edward Franklin (1832-1919)
Historical Note: Edward Franklin Williams was a Congregational minister, educator, field agent for the United States Christian Commission, missionary, and writer. Edward Franklin Williams was born in Massachusetts in 1832, the son of Delilah Morse Williams and George Williams. Williams attended Yale University from 1852 to 1856, and he continued to earn an advanced degree from Yale. He later attended the Princeton Theological Seminary, where he graduated and earned his license to preach in 1861.Williams was exempt from the draft due to a tubercular condition in his lungs, and thus he did not fight in the Civil War. In April 1863, Williams received a commission as a field agent for the United States Christian Commission. With the Commission, he served two and a half years in the armies of the Potomac and the James.After the war, Williams was sent as principal to begin was became the Lookout Mountain Educational Institutions in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1867, Williams was appointed by the American Missionary Association to teach in the Normal and Preparatory Division of what was later Howard University. He left Howard to preach at several churches in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York, ultimately serving as pastor of Tabernacle Church in Chicago and Forty-Seventh Street Congregational Church, which later became South Congregational Church, in suburban Chicago, where he served until 1891.By 1880, Williams was writing a monthly column for The Congregationalist under a pen name, “Franklin.” He continued writing for this publication until 1908. He continued as a prolific writer, particularly in the 1890s.
From 1901 to 1911 Williams served as pastor of the Evanston Ave. Congregational Church in Chicago. Williams died in 1919 in Chicago.[ Sources: Edward Franklin Williams papers, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana ]
On a cold December day we took the CTA Blue Line to Jackson street and walked out of the underground on Dearborn Street at the Federal Court Building. We were just a block south of the Marquette Building which is home to Hermon MacNeil’s 1895 sculptures of 4 bronze relief panels [Cick Here] that tell the story Father Marquette explorations to Native peoples of Illinois.
We walked past the Federal Courts, then turned east toward the Art Institute of Chicago.
There sculptor Edward Kemeys’ twin bronze Lions (Mr. Defiance and Mr. Prowl) greeted us at the entrance in their Holiday regalia. They have stood guard there since 1893 when Mrs. Henry Field commissioned them.
Above is “Mister ‘In-an-Attitude-of-Defiance’,” as he rests on a Christmas package that normally is his base. The mood was festive as sixty people smiled and waited on the steps (between Mr. Prowler and Mr. Defiance) until the Museum doors were opened at 10 am.
1) Prowler and Defiance, 2)Mrs. Henry Field, and 3) Hermon MacNeil are all contemporaries of the 1893-95 era of the Chicago World’s Fair (Worlds Columbian Exposition).
Once inside we spent the morning admiring early art of Dutch and French collections. Eventually, we came opon a fovorite, Jules Adolphe Breton’s The Song of the Lark, (1884).
After some lunch in the modern art area, we went to find MacNeil’s “Sun Vow”. Here are my results.
While I could go on-and-on about this most famous of Uncle Hermon’s works, I will let my photographs speak for themselves. Enjoy!