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

Since 2010 this website has transported viewers through the years and miles between 100’s of Hermon MacNeil’s statues & monuments throughout the USA.

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

PERHAPS,  you walk or drive by one of his public sculptures daily. HERE, you can gain awareness of this great sculptor and his many works.  Maybe there are some near you! CHECK HERE!

Archive for 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition – St. Louis MO

Jo Davidson – about 1911 [Bates College of Arts: detail from Young Artists of the Modern School]

Hermon Atkins MacNeil about 1916

~ JO Davidson  ~ Adventurer  ~

~ Hermon MacNeil ~  Monument Man ~ 

1903 – 1910

For Jo it was …

WANDERING ~~ ROVING ~~ SEARCHING 

Always moving ~~ He learned “moving” first at home. 

Early memories of “moving” became a life theme.

He had decided to become a SCULPTOR, BUT he searched and roved for nearly a decade to discover

his own INNER SCULPTOR, the talent within.

JO DAVIDSON ~~ Adventurer

WANDERING PENNYLESS to St. Louis.  When Jo Davidson finished up at the MacNeil Atlier, he decided to go to St. Louis to find work as a sculptor at the World’s Fair — the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.  He carried with him a letter written by Hermon Atkins MacNeil recommending this young sculptor assistant to Mr. Zolney, the sculptor in charge. 

The problem was, he had no money to travel or live on.  He took a sales job selling wafers for ice-cream sandwiches.  That got him to St. Louis, but when he presented his letter, Mr Zolney had NO JOBS left. He needed no more sculptors.  Jo wandered the Fair midway destitute.  He slept on boxes at night hiding from the Fair police who cleared the grounds of closed the gates.

Making Pyrography to Live.  To survive Jo resorted to his old skills of making  portraits — burning them into wood and leather goods.  Showing samples of his work, he connected with a vendor and offered to do portraits and monograms on leather cushions.  Now he could eat, stay alive, and gain some income.  Even Geronimo, the Apache Chief, came to sit for him. 

JO Becomes a Cossack. One day two Russian Cossacks in full regalia passed by the booth where Jo worked.  He thought they were showfolk from the Pike, but when he used the only two Russian words that he knew to hail them…

“They wheeled around, and practically fell into my arms, jabbering away.  I did not understand a word, but I could see that they were in trouble. There was one solution: the Russian Westinghouse exhibition was in the same building.  Surely the man in charge could speak Russian.  I took them there and they wept as they told their story.”  Between … p. 19-20

Their goods had been stopped in government customs, at the fault of their interpreter who also absconded with some of their money.  The Westinghouse people cleared it all up.  The Cossacks hung onto Jo insisting he “had saved their lives.”  They gave him a steady job promoting their booth and silver inlaid wares.  In time off, he had the run of the fare, carrying his sketchbook filling it with drawings of everyone and everything he saw.  His adventures continued through the summer until the Fair closed in November of 1904. 

FAIR ENDS: Jo rambles around then arrives at HOME with a Black Eye.  When the fair ended, Jo felt a tragic sense of loss — something had died.  The exploits were over.  Time to move again.  He wandered on to Chicago, with the Cassocks, then Atlantic City.   Jo wanted no part of “shop work.”  He ventured on the Boardwalk and began drawing profiles of tourists.  His motto: “Your Portrait, … No Likeness, No Pay.” 

He met many people, made many drawings barely scraping by.  In hope of better days, he accompanied a reporter to Philadelphia looking for a job drawing with a newspaper (but that fell through when he asked for a contract).  Jobless and penniless, he wandered the streets of Philadelphia.  He told his story to strangers.  They offered to pay him for drawing them; but when he did, they laughed and refused to pay.  A fight ensured.  They gave Jo a black-eye for his troubles.  

Three blocks later, he met up TOM FIELD, a friend from the Boardwalk.  He asked about the black-eye. Then Tom gave Jo his hotel room, bought him dinner, and left town before Jo awoke.  A warm breakfast was brought to the room with a warmer note from Tom.  The note contained a railroad ticket to New York City, a five dollar bill, and advise to use both as soon as possible.  Jo ate and followed Tom’s advise.

JO’S FIRST COMMISSION …

NEW YORK AGAIN!   “The Art Students League gave me a room which was used by the modeling class at night,” Jo said.  “In return I agreed to teach the summer class.”  Several years earlier, he had sketched an idea for a work to be called “David” slinging a stone at an invisible Goliath. The sketch received honorable mention.  Wanting to start the small figure, he went to his old friend Mr Partee, who liked the sketch and agreed to commission it as a two-foot high bronze statue. Jo started the work with enthusiasm but kept doing and undoing each day’s work until he became quite discouraged.  Edward MacCarten, an earlier student of MacNeil, would stop by occasionally.  Seeing Jo’s dilemma he offered some helpful advise.

“One day he said, “Jo, here’s an idea. When you come here tomorrow go to work as if this is your last day on earth and you have to finish your statue before you die.” This struck home. The next day I went to work with new energy.  I didn’t die that night, nor did I finish the “David” that day. But as I look back, MacCarten’s advise was one of the greatest contributions that I ever received from a fellow artist.”

That advise would also become a pathway to Jo’s future as a sculptor.  With it, Jo completed the work.  Partee was so pleased he offered to pay for a second bronze casting. Jo sent his “David” to a jury (MacNeil was probably on that jury).   The statue was accepted for the 1905 exhibition of the Society of American Artists.  The day of the show Jo borrowed an ill-fitting Prince Albert coat from his uncle and with his sister, Ray (Rachel), they entered the Fine Arts Building adjoining the League.

“We walked up the few steps and entered the the great gallery all crowded with people.  I must have been a very funny sight in that Prince Albert coat, but I was walking on air, completely unconscious of my clothes. We went around looking for my “David.”  There he was in bronze — on exhibition with the works of real artists, sculptors, and painters.  I felt timid about looking at it.  I pretended to be interested in everybody else’s work but my own. We ran into MacNeil.”

JO and HERMON meet at his “DAVID”

PUPIL AND TEACHER SHARE A PROUD MOMENT.

So Jo, the studio boy, and Hermon MacNeil, the sculptor, meet again.  This time not in that College Point Studio, not “mixing a little clay”, but in the great exhibition hall and in the presence of his beloved sister.  Fifty-years later Jo still remembers what Hermon asked:

MacNeil: “How do you like the way we placed your ‘David’?” 

Jo’s recollection: I would have liked it no matter where they placed it.  I do not think I have ever felt that way since.”

Of all the sculptors that would have been at the Exhibit at that moment, Jo mentions only Hermon MacNeil’s solicitation about the piece.  Obviously, MacNeil gave some thought to the placement and setting of Jo’s “David” slinging toward that invisible Goliath. Hermon probably felt warm pride at Jo’s David, possibly even recalling Jo’s first attempt to make a Corinthian capital that first day in the College Point Studio.  Whatever the former Teacher and the former “studio boy” were feeling as they met, the moment had become indelible enough for Jo to include it a half century later in his autobiography after his teacher’s death,  Jo certainly sculpts the story with excitement and pride both in that moment and in recalling it in his life’s “Sittings.” Between Sittings, (p. 25). 

PLEASANT MEMORIES OF HERMON:  One can not help but smile imagining the reunion of the QUARTET: sculptor, the sister and teacher with the “David” in the great gallery of Art.  It must have been smiles all around.  And I suspect that these smiles had nothing to do with ill-fitting Prince Albert jackets.  Jo was excited.  MacNeil was pleased.  Jo’s recounting and recording of this moment with his teacher seem to radiate a growing pride in the  bonds of creativity, shared work, and talent, between sculptors.   PLEASANT MEMORIES from 50 years ago.

“BAH!” — JO’S FATHER stings,

After the Exhibition Jo delivered the “David” to Mr. Partee.  When the second bronze copy was finished, Jo recalls:

“I took it home and placed it on the mantelpiece in our front room.  The next day when I came home from the League, I found my father looking intently at my “David.”  He was unconscious of my presence.  Then he turned and saw me, and with a disapproving gesture of the hand, said “Bah,”  turned on his heel and left the room.  Father had had other ambitions for me.”

HERMON and JO’s FATHER.   In Jo’s telling of his life story, the contrasts of Hermon MacNeil, his sculptor teacher, and Jacob Davidson, his father, could not be more glaring. Jo’s Father had plans and ambitions for his Son.  He was the MILLION from birth!  He was Jacob’s winning Lottery Ticket.  The lucky blessing for the devoted faithful prayer.  Jo even entitles Chapter 1 of his autobiography, “THE MILLION!”  So that was a life-long moniker from his family of origin. Lois Harris Kuhn in her book,The World of Jo Davidson, explains it to her young readers in this way:

“No one was ever to know for certain what it was that Jacob Davidson thought that having a son meant.  Whatever it was, it was obvious  — almost right away — that Jo was unlike anyone his father had expected.  In Fact, Jo was like no one else.  He asked far too many questions.  He made pictures of everything he saw. He was so filled with life and laughter that everyone around him responded to it.  Everybody — everything — small or large — interested Jo.!  It was a good thing for a boy that his mother, Haya, understood him completely.”  [ Kuhn, The World of Jo Davidson, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Jewish Publication Society, New York, 1958. p. 4.]

Jo does not make comparisons, he just shares memories and interactions.  Any reader of Jo’s recollections or descriptions of his life, however, can not help but see stark emotional contrasts between Jo’s father, Jacob Davidson, and Hermon MacNeil.  Moreover, the difference in two sets of recollections appear quite awkward

CONTINUING at HOME and the ART STUDENTS LEAGUE.

Jo Davidson’s bust of Haya Davidson, his proud mother and most willing model. [Between p. 55a]

While at home in New York, Jo modeled a bust of his “intensely proud” Mother who most willingly posed for him.  He was spending entire days at the “League” with other students.

“Those were gay days: music, dancing and parties. To those parties at the League, I brought my sisters Ray and Rose and it was not long before I brought the League to my house.  We were then living on West 111th Street overlooking the Park.  It was a top-floor railroad flat, but nobody minded climbing all those flights of stairs.  Mother’s strawberry jam, Rose’s singing, and Rachie’s warm and vivacious charm pulled people right up to the top floor.”

Jo’s sister Rose recalls those days with a bit of free verse:

  • “Like a flock of homing pigeons,
  •  Nostalgic memories flapped their wings,
  • And rouse the slumbering past.
  • A victrola,
  • And listing to the Sextet from ‘Lucia’ —
  • Zenbrich — Scotti — Caruso —
  • Talking about victrolas — the first phonograph — New York
  • 111th Street top floor — front room —
  • An olive green velour curtain separating it from the rest of the railroad flat,
  • And endless tea parties,
  • Schubert’s ‘Serenade,’
  • Sam Halpert, tears running down his cheeks …”

Jo fell hard for “Flossie”, Florence Lucius, the tall Junoesque monitor of his class. [They would later come together in the later half of their lives.]  He’d hike to her home in Brooklyn.  With her father’s approval he accompanied her and Grace Johnson, another art student, on a  hiking trek through the Swangum Mountains in New Jersey.   Taking a Hudson River boat to Kingston, NY, walking all day, stopping at farmhouses, along the way, They would entertain their hosts by singing, playing the family organ, Jo’s mouth organ, and “doing a little jig”.  Many of these families had never traveled further that a few miles from home.  Jo, Flossie and Grace were something of a New York traveling trio. “It was all a wonderful new experience.”  They returned a week later with blistered city feet, but feeling healthy and sunburned as they rested on the Hudson River boat back home.  

A STUDIO OF HIS OWN.

Early in 1906 Jo rented a studio in an old brownstone on East Twenty-third Street.  Small, on the top floor, with just enough room for a couch, the skylight made a young sculptor feel right at home.  Many other painters and artists filled the brownstone and the neighborhood.  Jo made friends easily.   He went one evening on an adventure to Upton Sinclair’s Colony in Englewood, New Jersey called Helicon Hall .  The  escapade was the idea of Sadakichi Hartmann, an art critic and poet, who often stopped by the  studio.  With his sculptor’s eye, Jo described him as a curious-looking person — tall, gaunt, with a face like a Japanese mask.  One day Sadakichi described a recent trip to Helicon Hall where he met socialists, anarchists, making many friends.  Jo was working on a figure and had a girl posing for it. The model chimed in to say she too had friends there. 

Off the trio went on a snowy day arriving at dinner time.  The Sinclairs invited them to sit and share dinner.  Afterward  Mrs. Sinclair sat down in a wicker rocker and Jo sketched her portrait.  She told them they didn’t have a room to spare for the night.  Jo gave her the sketch and went off to discover that Sadakichi was berating Edwin Bojorkman, a reporter for the New York Sun.  In a huff, Sadakichi announced, “We are leaving.”  They trekked back several miles into the snowy night.  Sadakichi was nursing a bottle of whiskey most of the night and dancing in the snow.  They found a shed, started a small fire and thaw out. Warmed and rested, The wrinkled trio all caught the first train out. Sadakichi called up several papers telling his side of the story and advised them to call Jo Davidson for further details.   More stories and editorials continued. Jo thought he would never live down the sagas of their trek to Helicon.

PARIS — Adventuring Artist arrives on the LEFT BANK

At age 24, Jo felt compelled to go to Paris.  John Gregory, another MacNeil student, had just returned from that center of the Art World and his stories fired up Jo’s imagination.   Subsequently he moved to Paris in 1907 to study sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  After borrowing $150 from his old benefactor, Mr. Pardee, Jo the Adventurer purchased a second-class ticket and arrived in Paris with $40 left — but NO scholarship and NO support. 

Edward McCarten, another MacNeil student, met him at the Gare Saint-Lazare (train station).  Edward had already rented a studio next-door for him, but became appalled to learn Jo had no scholarship or support. “How are you going to live?” Jobs were scarce and Jo didn’t speak French.

“At any rate MacCarten introduced me to his bakery and his creamery, and every morning a loaf of bread and a quart of milk were left at my door.  It was extraordinary , the trust, the confidence that existed in Paris in pre-World War I days.  Broke as I was, I never went without a meal.  It may have been meager, but I didn’t starve.”  [Between … P. 33-34]

Growing up in the Lower East Side of NYC, Jo was no stranger to hunger.  At the St Louis World’s Fair he again learned how to live with hungry.  He had to live, eat, and sleep on exposition grounds and dodge the Fair police at night when everyone was supposed to leave.  Jo was a talented survivor who used those skills to launch whatever might be his next adventure.

Now in Paris he soon entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts paying $16 of his last $40 for tuition.  But after just three weeks, he the decided that the adventuring-artist-within-him was not going to find his dream there.

“The instructions there were made up of the same things I had heard at the Art Students’ League in New York.  I was looking for life.  They gave me antiquities.  SO I left the Beau Arts and decided to work out my salvation my own way.  I began to hustle for myself.  [Griffin, 14753-4.]

The next months were storm and stress.  The poverty was hard, the rebellion he felt in the clay was even harder. He would visit the Louvre, view the great masterpieces, wait for something to happen inside of him.  Nothing happened. “He had not yet found himself, and he knew it.”  McCarten helped him find work giving English lessons.  He earned three dollars a week.  He visited the cafes meeting other artists, poets, derelicts.  He would sit over a cafe creme for an hour or two.  He met Jerome Blum, a painter from Chicago.  Jo began cooking for both he and Jerry to stretch their pocketbooks. 

One night they came out of a poker game and saw a Great Dane lying on a bench.  The waiter said the dog was lost.  Jerry approached but got a snarl.  Being an expert on hunger in animals, Jo asked the waiter for a bowl of milk and bread.  Giving the dog food, he ate.  When they turned to leave, the Dane followed.  The Great Dane filled a gap of loneliness for Jo who immediately named him Sultan.  He was also a great introducer as people would approach the magnificent animal.  Jo’s full head of hair and black beard along with Sultan’s stately stride made a striking pair as they strolled the arty neighborhoods of Paris.  [Between … p. 38.]

Also, relief came from home.  Jo’s sister, Rachie, knew of all his ups and down through their lively letters.  Through mutual friends she learned of the Hallgarten Scholarship Fund.  Rachel, the teacher, succeeded to secure a  grant of scholarship for Jo amounting to thirty dollars per month for one year.  Jo’s assessment, “Then I was on East Street.”

The WALK to LUCERNE  vöyagueurs à pieds

FRENCH PEASANT by Jo Davidson

After another rejection of a life-sized sculpture of a boy that he had worked on diligently, Jo too felt rejected.  He decided to take a vacation from studio work.  So on a sunny morning with a knapsack on his back and Sultan by his side, they started out to walk to Switzerland and Lucerne.  In the fresh air he did a lot of thinking on the road.  He slept at Inns or farmhouses. Sometimes his drawings would pay for his board.  The issue of the failure of his work was always churning over and over in his mind.

He and Sultan caught up with a French Peasant driving an oxcart.  They chatted along roadway and the driver stopped to share cheese, bread, and wine from his lunch basket.  Jo asked where he could sleep overnight in the next town.  The driver told him he was foolish to sleep out of doors and explained to him “the law of the land” regarding travelers on foot — vöyagueurs à pieds.  He should go to the mayor of the next village and ask for lodging as a vöyagueurs à pieds.  The mayor would give him a permit assigning him to a family for hospitality.  After the drivers advise, the traveler fretted no more about traveling on foot.  [Griffin, 14753-4.]

J. D. FERGUSSON by Jo Davidson

Working like a “madman” 

After travels and “tall thinking” on the road, Jo’s found that his ideas of making art had changed.  Returning to his Paris studio he fell in with a group of “Post-Impressionists.”  In particular he made a close friend of John Duncan Fergusson, a Scottish painter.  They walked and talked about everything.  John stirred Jo’s energies and hopes. A portrait bust of Fergusson was the first thing that Jo completed.  The work broke with all of Jo’s academic training.  He decided to become a master of his own medium.  Expressing his thoughts of sculpting as fast as they came, he “worked like a madman.”  He made portrait busts of everyone he knew, sometimes two in a day.

“At last I did it, and made a portrait bust of a Swiss girl which satisfied me.  I was so pleased that I went around telling everyone what a wonderful thing I’d  done.  I told Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney about it, and she came to my studio to see it and bought it.  That encouraged me a lot.”   [Griffin, 14753-4.]

Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney was better known as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. She bought the “Head of a Swiss Girl”,  but more importantly became a patron and lifelong friend of Jo.  In following weeks, Jo sent his “Violinist” to the autumn Salon of 1908, and it too was accepted.

Continued Success and on to U.S.

The next spring he had three pieces accepted in the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, the new society.  He continued exhibiting in Paris and London through 1909 with dozens of pieces.  Finally, by December 1909 Jo felt that he had enough accumulated enough pieces to come back to New York City to hold an exhibition.  He did return and his US Exhibition brought him instant success in NYC, his home town.

REGARD 1909 [detail] marble, Signed: Jo Davidson 14 1/2x9x6 inches, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Binder. Source: Conner and Rosenkranz, Discoveries… p. 12.

Joel Rosenkranz describes this period of Jo’s successes in these words:

“The Baillie Gallery of London presented the exhibition Modern Illustrators and Statuettes by Jo Davidson in the summer of 1909.  On Davidson’s copy of the catalog, which lists Fourteen terra-cottas and one plaster, a single work is marked “sold.”  It is a modest beginning, but only three months later, January 1910, Davidson’s first one-man show opened at the New York Cooperative Society, where he exhibited thirty-three terra-cotta and bronze sculptures and twenty-eight drawings.  The show proved a success, for Davidson sold several works and received a portrait commission.” 

“Just before the New York show opened, Davidson married Yvonne de Kerstrat, a beautiful French actress he had met in Paris in 1909. Their son Jacques was born in July 1910 and that year was was unusually productive for Davidson.”   [Conner and Rosenkranz, Discoveries… p. 14.]

 

JO Davidson …   after all the

searching,

wandering

experimenting

The “MILLION”

has found the

SCULPTOR  within Him …

“Always moving” was the life-style of his home.

BUT THEN he said:

“I found the clay bin, put my hand in it,

and touched the beginning of my life”

He decided to become a SCULPTOR,

BUT he had to search and rove for nearly

a decade to discover his own

INNER SCULPTOR, the talent within.

Jo was looking for “LIFE”

Beaux Arts offered gave him  “Antiquities,”

HE  “moved” adventured, wandered, and roved

UNTIL …

He taught himself to CAPTURE

” L I F E “

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

\   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \   \ 

 

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

~  HERMON A. MacNEIL  ~

 

Monument Maker

 

1903-1910

Meanwhile the years from 1903 to 1910 back at College Point, Hermon MacNeil continued his various statues and monuments.  Since building his studio there, he had procured a succession of commissions for various monumental works. 

He worked with young sculptors sought to develop their talents in the Beaux Arts tradition in which he trained and preserved. 

BELOW are Listed the Monuments completed and initiated between 1903 and 1910 by Hermon MacNeil;

CLICK on these hot links for photos and information: 

1903 Chief of the Multnomah Tribe, Met Museum, NYC

1904 “The Coming of the White Man #2” ~ Queens, NYC ~ Poppenhusen

1904 “The Coming of the White Man” ~ Portland

1905 Monument to Soldiers & Sailors of the Civil War~ Whitinsville, Massachusetts

1906 President McKinley Memorial – Columbus Ohio (8 photos)

1906 President McKinley Memorial – Columbus Ohio (w. map)

1908 Cook County Building – Chicago – Video of 2 reliefs by MacNeil

1908 Four Bas reliefs on Cook County Building – Chicago

1908 Robert H. Thurston – Cornell University – Plaque and Bust

1912 “Into the Unknown” ~ Brookgreen Gardens, SC

1912 Orville Platt of Meriden, Connecticut

1912 Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Albany,NY

SOURCES:

Henry F. Griffin, “Jo Davidson: Sculptor”, The World’s Work; Volume XXII, August 1911.  pp. 14746-14755.

Lois Harris Kuhn, “The World of Jo Davidson,” Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Jewish Publication Society, New York, 1958. pp. 11-18

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

“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.”  

The three MacNeil sculptures above the main entrance of Cass Gilbert’s ‘Palace of fine Arts’ are examples of the Beaux Arts style of World Fairs of this era. (http://www.slam.org/).

For more on Supreme Court Building See Also:

1.  https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2010/05/29/tortoise-and-hare-taken-to-supreme-court/

2.  https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2010/08/07/moses-confusius-and-solon-at-supreme-court/

3.  https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2012/01/21/hermon-macneils-supreme-court-sculptures-the-tortoise-the-hare-revisited/

For more on Saint Louis World’s Fair See Also:

1.  https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2010/08/06/macneil-sculpture-st-louis-art-museum/

2.  https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2011/03/26/1904-louisiana-purchase-exposition-saint-louis-worlds-fair/

3.  https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2011/03/12/expositions-and-worlds-fairs-hermon-a-macneil/

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The Sun Vow is certainly Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s most visible and famous sculpture. If you ever have a chance to see it, please do so. (Even our best pictures on this website cannot do justice to the detail of this sculpture or to the creativity of the artist.)

Gibson Shell, sent us some “Sun Vow” photos from his recent excursion to NYC.  These photos do provide detail and a truer sense of MacNeil’s careful presentation of these figures and the  Sun Vow ritual.

Hermon MacNeil's "Sun Vow" graces over a dozen museums including the MMA in NYC.

 

These “Sun Vow” poses are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (73″ – Rogers Fund 1919). The backgrounds have been removed to present MacNeil’s composition without distractions.

Gib is a long-time Beaux Arts photographer — an amateur in the best sense of a ‘devotee, enthusiastic pursuer of any Beaux Arts sculpture.’ Gib has been a generous friend of this website. Dozens of his photos are featured already.  Hundreds more will be seen in future posts.

MacNeil made the “Sun Vow” in Rome as his final requirement for the Roman Rinehart Scholarship. The sculpture is signed with ‘RRS’ designating that commission of the piece. His typical signature “H. A. MacNeil Sc” (Sc for Sculptor~ See Gib’s photo below).

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.

Metropolitan Museum of Art – NYC, NY
Art Institute of Chicago
Phoenix Art Museum ~ Phoenix, AZ (Sun Vow)
The Saint Louis Art Museum ~St. Louis, MO (Reliefs over porch -Sun Vow)

His typical signature "H. A. MacNeil Sc" (Sc for Sculptor). Underneath the initials "RRS" (for "Roman Rinehart Scholarship," his sponsor of study) and the Location of casting "ROME"

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.

It is all in the faces - the ideals passed to a new generation.

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 'Sun Vow' at the MMA - NYC - with Daniel Chester French's "Angel of Death" in relief in background (See also Webmaster's <= Comment at left.

 

 

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.

 

SOURCES:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 Coming of the White Man" ~ MacNeil posed Black Pipe, the Sioux Warrior in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show that he befriended after the 1893 Chicago Fair. (Antique Postcard courtesy of Gil Shell)

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.”

(http://www.so-calleddollars.com/Events/Louisiana_Purchase_Exposition.html)

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.

"ARS ARTIUM OMNIUM" is a MacNeil creation for the 1904 St Louis Worlds Fair

 

This link below on the SLAM website also offers more detail images of all three panels and the building entrance:

Fine Arts by Macneil in Relief on the SLAM website:

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!

 

Artists View of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition ~ Looking north from the Cascades. The Buffalo figure on the right is MacNeil's "Physical liberty." The Dolphins that stair-step down th the cascades are also MacNeil creations.

The MacNeil sculptures above the main entrance of the Saint Louis Art Museum is a fine example of the Beaux Arts style of World Fairs of this era. (Credit SLAM at http://www.slam.org/).

The MacNeil sculpture above the main entrance of the Saint Louis Art Museum is a fine example of the Beaux Arts style of World Fairs of this era. (http://www.slam.org/).

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

Stay tuned!

Photo Credit: http://www.slam.org/

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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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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