WELCOME to the “Hermon A. MacNeil” — Virtual Gallery & Museum !

~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil,  of the Beaux Arts School American classic sculptor of Native images and American history.  ~ World’s Fairs, statues, monuments, coins, and more… ~ Hot-links ( lower right) lead to works by Hermon A. MacNeil.   ~ Over 200 of stories & 2,000 photos form this virtual MacNeil Gallery stretching east to west  New York to New Mexico ~ Oregon to S. Carolina.   ~ 2021 marks the 155th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth. ~~Do you WALK or DRIVE by MacNeil sculptures DAILY!   ~~ CHECK it OUT!

DO YOU walk by MacNeil Statues and NOT KNOW IT ???

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“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)

 

 

 

 

 

Gregory H. Jenkins AIA, Chicago architect and keeper of the  “Chicago Sculpture in the Loop” website has documented the restoration of Hermon Akins MacNeil ‘s 117 year old bronze relief panels depicting the burial of Pere Marquette by the Native American people who he befriended. The four panels are part of the historic character and preservation of the The Marquette Building, a Chicago architectural and business land mark currently home to Holabird and Roche.

The Marquette building in the Loop is one of Chicago’s many commercial and corporate centers committed to preserving the history, art, and architecture of the city.

“I walk by there everyday on my way to work,” my daughter, Rachel, said when I showed her Gregory Jenkin’s well-done website postings.   The four bronze panels are an inconspicuous part of the Marquette Building at 140 Dearborn St in the downtown. These art treasures are easily lost to passer-byes in the bustling Chicago loop.   As you can see from the photo below, they reside about 10 feet above the noise and scurry of the fast-paced pedestrians, cars, limos, delivery trucks and  on Dearborn St (as in Ft Dearborn, children! – see below).

The four panels above the doors were restored in the summer of 2009 by  the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, as a part of its ongoing curatorship of the arts and the The Marquette Building. Gregory H. Jenkins posted the following comments on the significance of this art and preservation on the website:

“The Marquette Building was completed in 1895. Twenty years had passed since the Battle of Little Bighorn. And the passing of the the American Indian had, by then, become on object of confused Romanticism. The Fort Dearborn Massacre was still a story Chicago grandparents told their grandchildren. (Bad Indians!) But the country now stretched from Ocean to Ocean. And the time of Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet hiking a bucolic Chicago River –helped along by Native Americans — was, surely, regretfully, gone forever.”

In four postings Jenkins follows the progress of the restoration replacement of the panels

July 4, 2009 – Post 1 – http://chicagosculptureintheloop.blogspot.com/2009/07/marquette-buiding-hermon-atkins-macneil.html

July 12, 2009 – Post 2:  http://chicagosculptureintheloop.blogspot.com/search?q=macNeil&updated-max=2009-07-01T15%3A23%3A00-07%3A00&max-results=20

July 18, 2009 – Post 3:  http://chicagosculptureintheloop.blogspot.com/2009/07/marquette-building-hermon-atkins_18.html

July 22, 2009 – Post 4: http://chicagosculptureintheloop.blogspot.com/2009/07/marquette-building-hermon-atkins_22.html

MacNeil’s bronze relief sculptures tell the story of Marquette’s discoveries and life among the Illinois people. [This picture of 6-12-10 includes the webmaster and family mambers examining and documenting the art.

Jenkins tells some of the MacNeil history of his contact with the Lakota Sioux and other Native people who were a part of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in conjunction with the Chicago World’s fair of 1893: “Hermon Atkins MacNeil met Black Pipe, of the Lakota Sioux on the Midway in 1893. This Indian, who had seen the last of the open prairies, performed at Wild Bill Cody’s Wild West Show at the Chicago World’s Fair and stayed in Chicago after the Fair to work and model for MacNeil. His rough features, often repeated in MacNeil’s work, are contrasted here with the delicate images of two children. Both gain from the proximity.” Posted by Gregory H. Jenkins AIA

 

 

So Chicagoans, look up next time you are on Dearborn Street and take in the art and history of Chicago.

Thank You Mr. Jenkins, for lifting our eyes above the sidewalk and for enjoying the Loop Art from places as remote as South Dakota (Land of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people)   ~ the Webmaster, Sioux Falls, SD

 

 

 

MacNeil modeled Black Pipe after meeting him in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at the Chicago Worlds Fair ~ (photo by D. Neil Leininger) ~

Gregory H. Jenkins has posted stories of the Marquette Bronze relief panels at the Marquette Building – 140 N. Dearborn St. – Chicago.  Black Pipe, the Sioux that MacNeil met at the Buffalo Bill’s Wild west Show, adjacent to the 1983 Columbian Exposition, posed for him in 1894.  Some of the detail in the Bronze panel sculptures is amazingly intriguing up close.

Click HERE to see Jenkins comments and photos at: Chicago Sculpture in the Loop http://chicagosculptureintheloop.blogspot.com/2009/07/marquette-buiding-hermon-atkins-macneil.html

WHAT YOU FIND HERE.

Here is ONE place to go to see sculpture of Hermon A. MacNeil & his students. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and private, these creations point us toward the history and values that root Americans.

Daniel Neil Leininger ~ HAMacNeil@gmail.com
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WE DESIRE YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOS – Suggestions

1. Take digital photos of the work from all angles, including setting.
2. Take close up photos of details that you like
3. Look for MacNeil’s signature. Photograph it too! See examples above.
4. Please, include a photo of you & others beside the work.
5. Tell your story of adventure. It adds personal interest.
6. Send photos to ~ Webmaster at: HAMacNeil@gmail.com