Archive for 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition – St. Louis MO
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)
“Slow but steady wins the race.”
So said Aesop in the fable of the “Tortoise and the Hare.” And those are the two last figures that Hermon A. MacNeil placed as ‘bookends’ on either end of the East Pediment of the US Supreme Court Building. On our recent visit to Washington, D.C., we slowly made our way to the Supreme Court Building, we walked steadily around to the East Pediment (back side) passing the barricades for all the current landscape construction.
There, hidden high on the seldom-seen back side of **Cass Gilbert’s last architectural achievement, rests the eleven marble figures of Hermon A. MacNeil’s tribute to “Justice: The Guardian of Liberty.” Unless you walk around the building you will miss this massive work of art.
Moses, Confucius, and Solon represent three great world civilizations. Moses (receiver of Hebrew Ten Commandments) is in the center. To his right is Confucius (Chinese philosopher and teacher). To Moses’ left is Solon (Athenian lawmaker, statesman, and poet). MacNeil explained his work as follows:
“Law as an element of civilization was normally and naturally derived or inherited in this country from former civilizations. The ‘Eastern Pediment’ of the Supreme Court Building suggests therefore the treatment of such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived from the East.”
This trio of law makers are framed on left and right by three pairs of allegorical figures. The rest of the grouping is as follows:
“Flanking this central group – left – is the symbolical figure bearing the means of enforcing the law. On the right a group tempering justice with mercy, allegorically treated. The “Youth” is brought into both these groups to suggest the “Carrying on” of civilization through the knowledge imbibed of right and wrong. The next two figures with shields; Left – The settlement of disputes between states through enlightened judgment. Right – Maritime and other large functions of the Supreme Court in protection of the United States. The last figures: Left – Study and pondering of judgments. Right – A tribute to the fundamental and supreme character of this Court. Finale – The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.“
East Pediment description: CLICK HERE
** NOTE: “Gilbert, Sr. died in 1934, one year before the completion of the Supreme Court Building by his son, Cass Gilbert, Jr. MacNeil and Gilbert first collaborated in 1904 at the Saint Louis World’s Fair. That “Palace of Fine Arts” on Art Hill now houses the St. Louis Art Museum.”
For more on Supreme Court Building See Also:
For more on Saint Louis World’s Fair See Also:
The size of this piece (72-74 measured variously) is the same of those in major museum collections. Several links on this website (see below and also “MUSEUMS: with MacNeil Art” section in lower right) connect to these “Sun Vows.” Possibly a dozen of these exist, publicly and privately.
Numerous smaller casts (about 36″) and even miniatures authorized by MacNeil himself were cast up until the 1920s. These also are highly desirable and found in many museums.
Buffalo Bill Historical Center – Cody WY (Sun Vow)
Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando FL
Chrysler Museum of Art – Norfolk, VA
Herman Atkins MacNeil often placed “Sc” behind his signature on sculptures (as seen above, and in other photos on his signature on this website.
According to McSpadden, an article on MacNeil in the Craftsman stated,
“In The Moqui Runner, The Primitive Chant, The Sun Vow, The Coming of the White Man, and many others of his Indian statues, MacNeil always gives you the feeling of the Indian himself, of his attitude toward his own culture of the Sun Vow that MacNeil has memorialized, are a compounded and profound statement of the power of art and artists. vanishing tribes, and his point of view toward the white race which has absorbed his country. It is never the Indian of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, trapped out for curiosity seekers, but the grave, sad, childlike man of the plains, faithful to his own tribe, once loyal to us, though now resentful; and always a thinker, a poet, and a philosopher.” (McSpadden lists the following source: “The Art of MacNeil,” Craftsman. September 1909).
( See also: Florence Finch Kelly, “American Bronzes at the Metropolitan Museum: An Important Collection in Process of Formation.” Craftsman, 1907: Volume XI, February 1907, Number 5, pp 545-559.)
Dr. Andrew Walker, an associate curator at the St. Louis Art Museum, has written a chapter in “Shaping the West.” MacNeil’s ‘Sun Vow’ was chosen for the cover photo of that publication by the Denver Art Museum. Walker’s essay there is entitled: “Hermon Atkins MacNeil and the 1904 World’s Fair: A Monumental Program for the American West.” Walker has written and presented extensively on MacNeil.
While highlighting the work of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Dr. Walker illustrates how the 1904 World’s Fair included a monumental sculpture initiative. He does this with narrative and photo description of the major sculptures that formed the grounds, fountains, waterfalls and buildings of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis. The current St. Louis Art Museum (where Walker is a curator) was the “Palace of Fine Arts” conceived by Cass Gilbert, architect of the fair grounds (and later the US Supreme Court Building). Over a century later, Mac Neil’s three sculpture relief panels still look down from their vantage point above the three sets of doors at the main entrance.
The more I study this sculpture (as other MacNeil pieces?) the more new details I find in MacNeil’s creations.
The photo at right shows MacNeil’s Sun Vow with Daniel Chester French’s “Angel of Death” in the background. French and MacNeil were colleagues and collaborators. The Angel of Death has grasped the hand of the sculptor. See more of this DCF piece HERE.
Webmaster’s Comment: The beauty and ‘irony’ of the two sculptures together, long after the death of the two sculptors and the vanishing of the culture of the Sun Vow that MacNeil has memorialized, are a compounded and profound statement of the power of art and artists.
SHAPING THE WEST : American Sculptors of the 19th Century. With additional essays by Alice Levi Duncan, Thayer. Tolles, Peter Hassrick, Sarah E. Boehme, and Andrew Walker.
- Florence Finch Kelly, “American Bronzes at the Metropolitan Museum: An Important Collection in Process of Formation.” Craftsman, 1907: Volume XI, February 1907, Number 5, pp 545-559.)
The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition ~ St. Louis World’s Fair, commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.
At the 1270 acre Forest Park location and the campus of Washington University the Fair was constructed and the Olympic Games were held.
“Fifteen major exhibition Palaces radiated in fan pattern from central Festival Hall in “setting of lagoons, boulevards, gardens, fountains and sculpture” (1,200 pieces of statuary). Electric light, sign of progress then, used “lavishly” for both decoration and illumination. Featured were motor car, aeronautics and wireless telegraphy–all at their earliest, most exciting stage of development; spotlight on auto which had traveled from New York City to St. Louis, then “an unprecedented feat and a hazardous journey.” Olympic Games held during Exposition in first concrete stadium built in U.S.”
For the event, MacNeil exhibited three sculptures: “The Moqui Runner,” “A Primitive Chant,” “The Coming of the White Man” (pictured here from period postcard showing the Portland, Oregon setting.)
On a prominent hill of the Forest Park location, Cass Gilbert designed and build the Palace of Fine Arts. This one permanent building remains 106 years later as the home of the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM).
It also became one of many collaborations of Gilbert and MacNeil over the next 30 year. The most famous of these would be the last in 1932 – the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
Gilbert designed the front entrance of this Palace of Fine Arts to bear six Corinthian columns. The four central columns frame the three MacNeil reliefs sculptures above the three entrance doors. Inscribed on his center panel are the words “ARS ARTIUM OMNIUM “roughly meaning, “The art of all arts.”
That panel is pictured here.
This link below on the SLAM website also offers more detail images of all three panels and the building entrance:
The MacNeil work was a part of that “Palace of Fine Art” and his abilities in the Beaux Arts style seemed to seal his collaborative link to many projects grown from Cass Gilbert’s genius. The inscription “ARS ARTIUM OMNIUM” translates literally from the Latin as “the Art of all Arts.”
Above the columns of the Saint Louis Art Museum are inscribed the words, “DEDICATED TO ART AND FREE TO ALL – MDCDIII.” That Free to All spirit remains today in that admission is free through a subsidy from the ZMD.
A New York Times article offers editorial on “free art” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/arts/design/22admi.html?_r=1
Other works completed by MacNeil for the fair were the “Fountain of Liberty” and the massive sculpture “Physical Liberty.” The artist rendition below shows both. “Physical Liberty” is the large Buffalo sculpture on the right. A young woman on the other side accompanies the powerful beast. Detail photos of the fountain are difficult to attain. Hopefully, more to Come!
In the meanwhile, Enjoy!
The Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries were filled with hundreds of World’s Fairs. Hermon Atkins MacNeil began his career as a sculptor in the 1890s. He worked on five of these events that were in the U.S. between 1901 and 1915. He helped design buildings, outdoor art, plazas, exhibits, and entered sculptures in many of these expositions.
MacNeil’s works were entered in the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (1901); the Charleston Exposition in South Carolina (1902); the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (1904); [MacNeil Sculpture “Meets Me in St. Louis” (7.3) On a recent trip to Saint Louis, Missouri to visit…] the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon (1905); and the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in (1915)
In future postings we will gather information on these events and MacNeil’s involvement in expos that became extravaganzas of art and sculptures. So more on Chicago, Buffalo, Charleston, Saint Louis, Portland, and San Francisco fairs. Most of the fairs that MacNeil worked on were built in the peak era of the Beaux Arts style of architecture and sculpture in the U.S. He was part of a the American Renaissance from 1890 to 1920, the last phase of Neoclassicism in United States. (See also Beaux Arts link above).
Below is a Wikipedia list of World Fairs from 1700 to the present. Modern Expos tend to be held in outside of the USA in nations with developing economies and growing world trade.
List of World’s Fairs: Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_world%27s_fairs#1890s
Photo Credit: http://www.slam.org/