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“Clan MacNeil Connections and Hermon Atkins MacNeil”
The current issue of the Clan MacNeil Association of America magazine has a feature story on Hermon Atkins MacNeil by webmaster, Dan Leininger
The Galley edited by Vicki Sanders Corporon titles Dan’s story as “Clan MacNeil Connections and Hermon Atkins MacNeil.” The feature and photos fill 8 pages in the “Galley” issue for Spring/Summer 2014.
The featured photos include the East Pediment of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. (with a detail close-up of Moses, Confucius, and Salon); The George Rogers Clark monument in Vincennes, IN at the site of his victory over the British in 1779; Confederate Defenders of Charleston, SC; the Young Lawyer Abraham Lincoln in Champaign, IL; General George Washington on the Washington Arch, NYC, NY. Also in this article are photos of the grouping Coming of the White Man in Portland, OR; The WWI Angel of Peace Monument in Flushing NY; and a bust of Dwight L. Moody (who MacNeil sketched during the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.
Today, February 27, 2014 marks the 148th anniversary of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, born this very day in 1866. So each February, we celebrate “MacNeil Month” in his honor.
In 2010, I formally began searching for “Uncle Hermon” in several ways. First, I built this “digital gallery” of his life and work as a sculptor. HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com is a website dedicated to making his sculpture and career available to the world.
In this virtual gallery you will find over 600 photos and 130 stories of Hermon MacNeil’s life and work. His statues of George Washington from Washington Arch, NYC; Ezra Cornell at Cornell University, William McKinley at Columbus, Ohio; Abraham Lincoln at Champaign, Illinois; Pony Express at St. Joseph, Missouri; Pere Marquette in Chicago; and monuments in Philadelphia, Charleston, Albany, and Flushing, and dozens of other cities can be studied here.
These sculptures, statues, monuments are scattered from Washington, DC to Portland, Oregon, and from New York City to Gallup, New Mexico. A web search of the name “Hermon MacNeil” can bring you here.
HOW DID YOU FIND the Hermon MacNeil website?
Please add comment below. Tell us what brings you here.
Secondly, this year I joined the Clan MacNeil Association of America. I did not know its existence until I saw the 1928 news story of the MacNeil plaque dedication in Red Springs. I have shared MacNeil stories at the annual family reunion of my siblings and our children and grand children. In August 2013 I attended the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Fest in Estes Park. What a great celebration of Celtic pride.
Keep watching as I continue the search and research on Hermon Atkins MacNeil.
The screen capture (below) shows a frame from the 1929 silent movie “The Medal Maker.” This photo frame shows four presidents of the National Sculpture Society who were also “Medal Makers” presenting the NSS‘s ‘Special Award Medal’ to Daniel Chester French (center). French (1850-1931) died just 2 years after this video was made. The making of the Medal by Laura Gardin Fraser is told in “The Medal Maker” (see cover at right).
Three of these sculptors (Fraser, Weinman and MacNeil) had already redesigned US Coinage. They created the Buffalo Nickel (JEF), the Liberty [Mercury] Dime & Walking Liberty Half-Dollar (AAW), and the Standing Liberty Quarter (HAM).
Below are Society of Medalists creations and stories from each sculptor on some of their medal making. (The SOM medal images below are from the collection of the webmaster, Daniel Neil Leininger.)
All five sculptors contributed to the “Society of Medalists” series of the Medallic Arts Company started in 1930, one year after this video was made. Laura Gardin Fraser, the maker of the NSS Special Award Medal, is the fifth medal maker featured here. She also sculpted the SOM#1, First Issue of the entire SOM series. Her NSS Award Medal (100mm or 4 inches) is featured below also.
- James Earl Fraser (1876-1953) ~ SOM #45 “The Pony Express” and “New Frontiers” 1952″ James Earle Fraser was the husband of Laura Gardin Fraser and 13 years her senior. He chose historic images of the west, namely, the “Pony Express” and the oxen-drawn “Covered Wagon.” He stated that the Covered Wagon was a childhood image that he remembered from his childhood in South Dakota and Minnesota.
- Adolph Alex Weinman (1870-1952). ~ SOM#39 ~ 1949 ~ “Genesis” and “Web of Destiny.” Weinman offers the following description of his inspiration for this piece:
- “… for ‘Genesis’, look up chapter one in your Bible, I could not say it nearly as well. As to the ‘Web of Destiny’, that should be easily interpreted. The little fellow is Eros, who can perform more miracles in guiding the strands of destiny than any power known to man.” (J.E.F. -SOM #39)
- Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966). Her sculpture of the National Sculpture Society special award medal is the subject of the “Medal Maker” film/video. The presentation of the medal to French by the four past-presidents of the NSS is also recorded in that film.
- AE Medal of National Sculpture Society, Medallic Art Co., United States, 1929-1929. 1997.62.1
- Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) – “Hopi” and “Prayer for Rain” SOM #31 ~ 1931. Based on MacNeil’s “Moqui (Hopi) Runner” of 1897, this was the only SOM medal that he would sculpt.
- For his lengthy explanation of the theme he chose, see this website: “Medals4Trade”
- MacNeil’s brief intro to the medal is as follows: “The two incidents of the Hopi Prayer for Rain on the mesas of northeastern Arizona depicted on this medal are chosen by your sculptor because of the extraordinary vital enthusiasm and power that the Indians throw into this ceremony. Having witnessed it and been thrilled by the intensity of their emotion and on further study by the complicated and perfectly natural development of this drama, I cannot help feel that in it we find a basic note underlying all religions. All these Southwest Indians, living as they do in an arid region, have developed their religion along the lines of their greatest need –water.”
- Herbert Adams (1858-1945)~ SOM #009 ~ The Prize and The Little Shiner 1934
- “Oh What Are the Prizes We Perish to Win” (on obverse), “To the First Little Shiner We Caught with a Pin” (on reverse). Numbers Issued: 1,207 Bronze, 100 Silver.
The words that Adams placed on the medal are translation of the two lines from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem, “Song of a Piece of Eight”, ~ He made the medal eight-sided (as a piece-of-eight) reminiscent of the pirate poem “Oh what are the prizes we perish to win. To the first little ‘shiner’ we caught with a pin.”
ALL FOUR MEN in the photo (excluding Daniel Chester French) would become Medal Makers for the SOM Series. The Society of Medalists series (begun in 1930 after this photo of 1929) was created by Medallic Art Company. It enlisted sculptors for the next 65 years. That list would read like the Who’s Who of Sculptors (American and otherwise) from 1930 to 1995.
- LAURA GARDIN FRASER was “The Medal Maker” featured in this film by that same name. I imagine that she was present for the presentation of the medal to French. She made numerous other medals (George Washington Bicentennial Medal 1932, Gilbert Stuart It seems ironic that her husband, James Earle Fraser, is admiring the medal and explaining some of her technique with the other sculptors. It is likely that Carol Brooks MacNeil was also present at the event. Women, however, were not in leadership in her era.
Ninety-four years after its first minting, the MacNeil “Standing Liberty quarter” retains a strong following among coin collectors. Tom LaMarre of Coins Magazine calls it MacNeil’s “real masterpiece.”
That says a lot coming from a coin expert like LaMarre. In a fascinating article at NumisMaster.com, he offers the usual numismatic history of the SLQ mixed with new information and delightful humor. The author has studied enough about MacNeil to mention about a dozen of his other works in the article including, “Sun Vow”, “Pony Express”, and “Ezra Cornell.” So, the “real masterpiece” compliment seems more than just another ‘two-bit’ comment. Some of LaMarre’s words which laud MacNeil’s Standing Liberty quarter include:
“Rich in symbolism and finely engraved detail, the new quarter reflected the spirit of peace and preparedness just before the United States entered World War I. It also revived a classical style in sharp contrast to the abstract and modern trends that were sweeping the art world at that time.”
LaMarre gives a thorough history of the design development, the changes, the controversies and the over-involvement of the Director of the Mint. A previous post on this website describes Jay H. Cline’s research book on the Standing Liberty Quarter includes nearly forty pages of letters between MacNeil and the Mint. LaMarre, finds this humorous quote on the over-involvement Mr Woolley in MacNeil’s project:
Mint Director Robert W. Woolley was so involved overseeing the preparation of the quarter design at the Mint that the Gettysburg Times predicted it would be known as the “Woolley quarter” or simply the “Woolley.”
The article offers some details of MacNeil history not seen before. He gives a discussion of the two women who served as models for the MacNeil’s art, namely Doris Doscher and Irene MacDowell. I had not known that Doris Doscher went public with her role in the SLQ on the TV show “I’ve Got A Secret” (or click HERE for second link).
Coin Collectors, especially SLQ fans and MacNeil enthusiasts alike, will enjoy Tom LaMarre’s article “MacNeil’s Standing Liberty Remains a Favorite.” It summarizes the importance of this art piece for collectors, it’s fascinating history, and MacNeil’s persistent creativity in developing the SLQ. LaMarre states:
The Standing Liberty quarter had a sculptural quality that set it apart from all previous quarter dollars. The Numismatist described it as “strikingly beautiful.” The New York Times called it a “silvern beauty.”
Coin collectors looking for more can graduate to Jay Cline’s book on Liberty Quarters. Cline’s book devotes Chapter 5 to telling the story of the two models that posed.
Either way the coin provides in interesting study in history, art and human nature. Treasury officials, namely Secretary William MacAdoo, had concerns about MacNeil’s delicate engraving not wearing as well in circulation as less artistic coin images of the past. But numismatists fine the delicate piece simply a treasure. Again LaMarre offers a good twist:
According to the Treasury secretary, it was a “fast-wearing” design that never quite worked out. In the opinion of collectors, it is a masterpiece that will stand in beauty forever.
Welcome to Day One of ” Hermon Atkins MacNeil, the website. ” Here you will find the gathered images of the sculpture and art of this American sculpture and come to appreciate his contributions to cities, parks, public buildings, memorials and museums across the United States.
Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) was an American sculptor born at Chelsea, Massachusetts. He was an instructor in industrial art at Cornell University from 1886 to 1889, and was then a pupil of Henri M. Chapu and Alexandre Falguière in Paris. Returning to America, he aided Philip Martiny (1858-1927) in the preparation of sketch models for the World’s Columbian Exposition, and in 1896 he won the Rinehart scholarship, passing four years (1896-1900) in Rome.
In 1906 he became a National Academician. His first important work was The Moqui Runner, which was followed by A Primitive Chant, and The Sun Vow, all figures of the North American Indian. A Fountain of Liberty, for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and other Indian themes came later; his Agnese and his Beatrice, which are two fine busts of women, and his nude statuettes, which echo his time spent in Rome and Paris, also deserve mention. One of his principal works is the sculpture in Columbus, Ohio, in honor of President William McKinley. In 1909 he won in competition a commission for a large soldiers’ and sailors’ monument in Albany, New York.
Perhaps his best known work is as the designer of the Standing Liberty quarter, which as minted from 1916 to 1930, and carries his initial to the right of the date. He also made Justice, the Guardian of Liberty on the east pediment of the United States Supreme Court building . One of his last works was the Pony Express statue dedicated in 1940 in St. Joseph, Missouri.
George Rogers Clark National Memorial.
Hermon Atkins MacNeil‘s sculpture of George Rogers Clark located in Vincennes, Indiana
The George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes commemorates the winning of the old Northwest by Colonel Clark and his frontiersmen in the American Revolution. Clark and his army composed of about 170 men captured old Fort Sackville here and caused the British to surrender on the morning of February 25, 1779, more than two and a half years prior to the surrender of Cornwallis to George Washington at Yorktown.
Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American sculptor, (February 27, 1866 – October 2, 1947) was most influential in winning worldwide recognition of the American Indian as a valid artistic focus in American and European Art. His statues depicting the Native American themes became an introduction for Americans and Europeans to a ‘truly American’ subject matter for the arts. His many later monument sculptures still grace public spaces in dozens of cities across the United States. (Hot-links on this website will take you there — virtually)
Early Life and Career: Born in Everett (Chelsea, Malden) Massachusetts on his parent’s farm, MacNeil received his formal training in the arts at the Normal Art School in Boston (now Mass Art) in 1886. Upon graduation in 1886 he moved to Cornell, New York where he became an instructor in industrial art and modeling at Cornell University from 1886 to 1888. Seeking continued education, he followed the path of many sculptors/artists of his day and left for study and experience in Europe. Settling in Paris, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the Julien Academy as a pupil of Henri M. Chapu and Alexandre Falguière.
Chicago: In 1891, he was back in the United States working with Frederick MacMonnies assisting on the architectural sculptures for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. With Lorado Taft, sculpture director, he prepared preliminary sketches and was asked to craft several sculptures for the Electricity Building. Afterward, he settled in Chicago. He taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and opened a studio, shared with artist Charles F. Browne, where he continued developing his work depicting the American Indian.
Native American Themes: His first introduction to native subjects came through Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. During the 1893 Worlds Fair, Buffalo Bill’s troupe performed in a carnival setting outside the main entrance. Fascinated, MacNeil’s artist-eye and imagination took every opportunity to see the show and sketch the ceremonies and rituals of Indian life. He latter befriended Black Pipe, a Sioux warrior from the show, who he found down-and-out on the Chicago streets after the carnival midways of the Fair had closed. MacNeil invited Black Pipe to assist in studio labors, which he did for over a year. Inspired by these native subjects and encouraged by Edward Everett Ayers, MacNeil found a respect for this vanishing Native culture and made subsequent trips to the southwest.
In the summer of 1895, along with Hamlin Garland (a writer) and C. F. Browne (a painter), he traveled to the four-corners territories (now, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah) seeing American Indians (Navajo, and Moqui — now Hopi) in their changing cultural element on various reservations. While there, he was asked to sculpt, out of available materials, a likeness of Chief Manuelito. The Navajo warrior had died in despair after being imprisoned for four years as a renegade by the U. S. Government (Col. Kit Carson) twenty-five years earlier. Manuelito’s likeness (click here), made of available materials, brought tears to his widow’s eyes, and remains an object of cultural pride in Gallup, New Mexico to this day.
Marriage: On Christmas Day 1895, in Chicago, he married Carol Louise Brooks, also a sculptor (see their marriage record below). Earlier MacNeil was informed that he had won the Rinehart Roman Scholarship. Following their wedding, the pair left for Rome, passing three years there (1896-1899) and eventually spend a fourth year in Paris where their first son, Claude, was born. During those years they studied together under the same masters and shared the income of Hermon’s Rinehart scholarship. (Carol had also studied sculpture with both Lorado Taft and Frederick William MacMonnies).
Launched in April 2010, this Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American sculptor. Trained in the Beaux Arts School of Paris, he led a generation of American sculptors to capture many fading Native American images in the realism of this classic style. He designed and sculpted for World’s Fairs, public monuments (see links below), coins, and buildings across to country.
We, here at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com, celebrate his work daily.
We have designated each February as “MacNeil Month” to honor his birth.
Enjoy over 100 stories of H. A. MacNeil’s work and life here, on-site, in your area, on vacation, wherever…
- — Google Maps show location of sculptures!
- — Click on list of “Public Sculptures of H.A.MacNeil” to see photos.
- — Study & Leave COMMENTS at the bottom of any Posting.
- — All in one cyber-space you can Celebrate a lifetime of art
A list of over forty web links to “Sculptures of Hermon Atkins MacNeil” can be found (to your right) or at https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/.
- www.nygardgallery.com at:http://www.fada.com/browse_by_artist.html?gallery_no=26&artist=3522&bio=1
- Holden, Jean Stansbury (October 1907). “The Sculptors MacNeil“. The World’s Work: A History of Our TimeXIV: 9403–9419.
- Hermon Atkins MacNeil – Wikipedia.org
- Daniel Neil Leininger. This website: https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/ ]