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 ???

Archive for Beaux-Arts

 

 

Jo Davidson, Sculptor, 1937

Hermon A. MacNeil sketch by Charles D. Daughtrey.

Jo Davidson

started as a

“studio boy” for

Hermon MacNeil

in 1903.

NOW,

February 2021  

MacNeil Month 

will showcase

FOUR Stories of

“Hermon and Jo”

from their nearly fifty years of friendship.

PLUS A SURPRISE BIRTHDAY

UNVEILING  on  February 27th !!!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

STORY # 1  

Jo Davidson ~ begins here …

From his late teen-years to his mid twenties,

Jo appears as a talented, outgoing, vagabond.  

A vagabond can be defined as …

  • an itinerant,  a wanderer, a nomad,
  • a wayfarer, a traveler, a gypsy
  • a person who wanders
  • from place to place
  • without a home or job.
Home Life
In Between Sittings, his autobiography, Jo sculpts his early home life in shapes of restlessness, rovering, and hunger. 
“I was born on New York’s lower East Side and the memories of early youth are vague and shadowy. I remember long, dark halls, crowded tenements, strange sour smells, drab unpainted walls and moving — we were always moving. … we were exceedingly poor and often didn’t have enough to eat.”Between Sittings, p. 3.
 Samantha Baskind tells Jo’s story this way: Davidson was born in the ghetto of New York’s Lower East Side to immigrant parents who had fled the Russian pogroms Encyclopaedia Judaica.
[ def.: pogroms: ethnic cleansing, persecutions, massacres, exterminations, slaughter …]
Jo “was the youngest of five children in a household of greatly limited means.”  “He had a step-brother, George, and three sisters; Nancy, Rachel, and Rose.”2
Jo’s parents had real fears and emotional scars from the traumas of those anti-Jewish persecutions in Russia.  After his parents emigrated to the U.S., Jo was born in New York City on March 30, 1883.  Jo inherited a restless wanderer’s spirit as a an offspring of terrorized generations “who had fled the Russian pogroms”  MORE.
Jo’s father, Jacob, was Jewish and a man “who lived completely within himself.” His father was “orthodox, self-absorbed, and more intent on religion than on his family.”2   He believed in miracles and fanatically hoped to hold the winning ticket in some lottery.  His father’s friends teased Jacob asking if he would rather have a SON or win a MILLION dollar lottery. So after Jo was born, he was nicknamed by friends and family, “The Million.” 
“Father had beautiful eyes, a long white beard, and the face of a prophet.  I can still see him moving about the house almost like a spirit.  He was always praying and a sign of affection from him was a rarely given luxury.” *  Between Sittings, p. 3.  and  Joel Rosenkranz, Rediscoveries…, p. 11.
Jo went with his Father, Jacob, to synagogue on Saturdays, but kept out of his way for fear of offending him. When he asked “where did Cain get his wife?” his Father father smacked him down by stating that “with God everything is possible.”
Jacob Davidson, definitely had plans and ambitions for his son.  The MILLION became the sarcastic “BRIS”  label of blessing for Jacob’s only son.  That moniker became a life-long label in Jo’s Life.  Seven decades later, Jo entitled Chapter 1 of his autobiography, “THE MILLION!”  Even after his death, Lois Harris Kuhn in her biography,The World of Jo Davidson, offered her young Jewish readers the following explanation:
“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 to 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’s personality was much like his mother, Haya, (nee: Getzoff) “was full of an unquenchable fire that brought life to everything around her… .”
“She was tiny, energetic, practical, the one on whom the whole family leaned.  The Davidson’s were exceedingly poor and often didn’t get enough to eat.  She would distract the family from their hunger with her wonderful story telling of her past life in Russia, her grandfather who adored her and raised her, and their father’s family filled with scholars and rabbis.” Between Sittings, p. 3,
She was a wonderful cook, could stretch a half-pound of meat into a dozen mouths.  Food was very scarce, but restlessness flourished.
“It is curious how little I remember of my school days. I was always in a dream, vague and lazy.  I understand now — being underfed, I wanted to sleep all the time.
Yet for all their poverty,  Jo recalls the touch of “a warm glow which came from my mother (Haya) and sisters (Nancy, Rachel, and Rose) who surrounded me with love and affection.”
Between Sittings, p. 3, 6. And Joel Rosenkranz, Rediscovderies
A Train Wreck of JOBS
The needs of the family forced Jo to leave school in his teens. What followed were a series of itinerant, dead-end tasks.  He first got a job as an apprentice to a house-painter and paperhanger.  He worked 12 hour a day, preparing pots and paints in the mornings and washing up and cleaning brushes after returning from jobs. “I don’t remember how I lost that job, but I did,”
 
What followed was a succession of endeavors: messenger boy at Western Union, office boy at a weekly, and errand boy at a bookstore.  Each job ran off the tracks, as he worked too fast for fellow piece-workers, or then slowed down, and got fired by the boss. 
 
When he got board he would sit and sketch, friends, cats, anything in sight. When he sketched other messenger boys, they told him “Jo, you are wasting your time, you ought to get a job at a newspaper.”  In between jobs, he hung around art galleries, or visited the afternoon drawing class at the Educational Alliance. Eventually the idea of becoming an artist appealed to him.
 
Talent Leads the Way
His sister, Rachie, was teaching public school.  She showed some of Jo’s sketches  to an interested friend who obtained a year’s tuition for Jo at the Art Students League. He enrolled in evening classes becoming the youngest member of the live class drawing from nude living models.   There he also met a friend, Waterbury, who taught pyrography — burning in sketches on leather with a pyrographic needle.  He mastered the technique and could sell piece work for good pay. 
 
He continued evening drawing classes at the Art Students League.  On weekends he would go to a country sketch club and on Sundays he would paint on Richmond Hill on Staten Island.  He said his paintings were timid and pale.  One in a discussion group he was asked if he could shut his eyes and mentally see a desired color, red, blue, yellow.  Jo recalls, ” I tried and tried but all my concentration produced nothing and it was then that I decided I was not a painter.” Between Sittings, p. 8-10.

For some time, Jo’s family thought he should become a doctor. So he was sent to New Haven moved in with his sister, Nancy, and her husband, David, a graduate of Yale Medical School.  In between cramming for Regents’ exam, Jo befriended Randall the college photographer. He loaned Jo a photograph of Dr. Arthur Hadley, of Yale University.  Jo  began using his skills to make a burnt wood portrait of the new president.  When Jo finished, Randall displayed it in his storefront window. The next morning Jo returned to the store to find a crowd of people looking in the window at his portrait.  It was marked “sold.”  Jo got a check for $25.

The buyer, Mr. Pardee, requested that Jo visit him in his office.  Seeing the sketchbook in Jo’s pocket, Pardee asked to examine it, then requested permission to show two drawing to the head of the art school.  On seeing the sketches, Professor Neimeyer invited him to come and work in the Art School — tuition free — saying, “We are glad to have young men of talent.” So Jo began drawing a live model with other Art School students. Eventually he sketched the model from so many angles that he tired and lost interest.  Taking a break, he roved through the  building. He found a basement room full of plaster casts and modeling stands, and he walked in. 

Jo finds CLAY and “touches the rest of his life … ”

“I found the clay bin, put my hand in it, and touched the rest of my life. The cool wet stuff gave me a thrill that I had never before experienced.” 

He began building clay on a stand, copying a mask of Saint Francis nearby.  He lost track of time, then was startled when he realized  the modeling instructor, Mr. Boardman, was standing behind him.  The instructor asked how long Jo had studied modeling.  Jo said this was the first time he had touched clay.

He did not seem to believe me, which gave me the feeling it was not too bad.  We talked for a long time and the result was that I decided to chuck medicine and take up sculpture.”  Jo asked who taught sculpture and was given the name of Hermon A. MacNeil.  Between Sittings, p. 8-10.

Hermon MacNeil ~ enters Jo’s life …

JO finds Hermon MacNeil and his College Point Studio.

“By 1903, with his flirtation with a medical career ended, Jo was back in New York working as an assistant in sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s studio.” RosenKranz, p. 11.

PHASE ONE ~ Jo and Hermon: A previous story on this website tells the next phase the story

CLICK HERE to read the whole saga as Jo described it, 50 years later after Hermon’s death.  Jo relates meeting Hermon, asking for a job, getting turned down, bargaining for pay from a Scotsman … [click link for More]

PHASE TWO ~ Jo and Hermon WORKING in the MacNeil Atlier with Henri Crenier and John Gregory as the studio boy .  => CLICK HERE for full story …

OR JUST READ JO’S ‘PUNCH-LINE’ TO THE STORY BELOW –

Jo FUNNY STORY concludes:  “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.” 

Hermon MacNeil outside his Studio about 1945. [Courtesy of Kenilworth Historical Society & Joel Rosenkranz. Photo by: Violet Wyld

Jo Davidson (about 1922)

NOTE THIS WELL: 

HERMON’S INTERVENTION:  MacNeil did not scold. He did not raise his voice. He did not even tell Jo to stop, for he probably saw the teasing and taunting that the young 18-year-old had taken from the other Assistants, Henri and John.  In essence he said,

“When you feel you are  sufficiently through pummeling Henri Crenier, (my master assistant), would you mix me a little plaster.”  Jo must have found Hermon to be quiet a contrast to his Father whose “signs of affection were rarely given luxuries”  Fifty years later Jo tells the above story in his biography, then concludes with: “The summer passed quickly. Those were rich and full days. I was sure of my vocation. I was going to be a sculptor.”l

Rich and full, the “sculptor to be” went on searching the world for another decade to develop his own style and skills as a sculptor.  Then in the next 40 years, Jo Davidson shaped portrait busts of over a hundred world famous peopleBUT the kindness of Hermon MacNeil seemed to be a pleasant memory.

MORE “HERMON & JO” STORIES TO COME …  on Feb 8th

#2  The Wanderer & The Monument Maker

~~~~

NOTES:

  1.  Jo Davidson, Between Sittings: an informal autobiography of Jo Davidson. Dial Press: New York, 1951. PP. 3.
  2. Connor, Janis and Joel Rosenkranz, photographs by David Finn, Rediscoveries in American Sculpture: Studio Works, 1893 – 1939, University of Texas Press, Austin TX 1989.

SOURCES: 

  • Jo Davidson, Between Sittings: an informal autobiography of Jo Davidson. Dial Press: New York, 1951. PP. 3-16.
  • TIME, “Political Notes: Glamor Pusses.” VOL. XLVIII, No. 11, September 9, 1946. pp
  • Connor, Janis and Joel Rosenkranz, photographs by David Finn, Rediscoveries in American Sculpture: Studio Works, 1893 – 1939, University of Texas Press, Austin TX 1989.
  • Jo Davidson, (1883-1952). Jewish Virtual Library: a project of AICE. Source:  https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jo-davidson. recovered on Jan 11, 2021.

As we begin the New Year of 2021, we have found a Bronze Bust of Samuel Longstreth Parrish by Hermon A. MacNeil.  This work has graced Southampton Village, Long Island for a century, but was not been previously credited on this growing virtual gallery of MacNeil’s works. https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/ 

Bronze Bust of Samuel Longstreth Parrish by Hermon A. MacNeil.

“Samuel Parrish, a wealthy New York attorney, made Southampton his adoptive home at the end of the 19th century and became one of its most active citizens and generous benefactors until his death in 1932. During the boom years at the dawn of the 20th century, he was involved in every major civic project. He donated land for Southampton Hospital, helped to establish the Rogers Memorial Library, served briefly as village president (mayor) and founded the Parrish Art Museum, which he considered his crowning achievement. He commissioned Stanford White to build a house for his mother on First Neck Lane and made many improvements to the Rogers Mansion, which was his home from 1899 until his death.” — Copy courtesy of the Southampton Historical Museum.

Samuel Longstreth Parrish standing inside his art museum. [Photo postcard of Samuel Parrish in his Museum. Circa 1907.  SOURCE: Arts and Architect Quarterly, at https://aaqeastend.com/contents/woodward-local-postcard-sampling/ on 1/1/2021]

Samuel L. Parrish Art Museum, 1898. Source: www.southamptoncenter.org

Parrish Art Museum ~ 2017

The original idea for the museum came to Samuel Parrish, who had studied the Italian Renaissance at Harvard College, while he was on a trip through Italy in 1896 gathering pieces and reproductions of Greek and Roman sculpture. Parrish commissioned fellow Southampton summer resident Grosvenor Atterbury to design the museum. 

 

Southampton Village Walking Tour

Woodward: Local Postcard Sampling

Related posts:

  1. Part 2: “Primitive Indian Music” ~ 1894 bronze casting discovered! Is this an early prototype of 1901 “Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit.” ??? (7) A recent inquiry from James Dixon has revealed a previously…
  2. MacNeil Park – College Point, Queens, NY (6) Hermon A. MacNeil Park in College Point, Queens, offers 29-acre…
  3. 1901 Pan-American Exposition – Buffalo, New York ~~ “The Rainbow City” (6) Between 1893 and 1905 Hermon Atkins MacNeil and his sculptures…
  4. Will YOU HELP this Patriot return to College Point? (6) Recognize this Patriot? You can HELP HIM return to College…
  5. “James Monroe” ~ ~ Hermon MacNeil’s Sculpture of a US President who died on the 4th of July (6) In 1931, exactly 100 years after James Monroe‘s death (b. April..

Hermon MacNeil met Hamlin Garland in Chicago.

Hermon MacNeil

New York Public Library - Digital Gallery (655 x 760)

H. A. Mac Neil

Hermon MacNeil came to Chicago in 1891. Preliminary work was beginning on the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 (Chicago Worlds Fair)He brought with him a Letter of Introduction to Phillip Martiny, a gift from Augustus Saint Gaudens of New York City. 

“Martiny was one of the large team of decorative sculptors assembled to carry out details for the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, where he settled for a year to carry out the clay models for many somewhat facile decorative allegorical figures, cherubs, caryatids and the like. …  The sculptures, which were carried out in staff, a weather-resistant plaster, were destroyed with the exhibition buildings, but the successful effect they produced led to further similar commissions at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York (1901) and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St Louis (1904). His growing reputation led to his only medal, an award medal for the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia.”  [4]  Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Martiny

“So MacNeil chose to settle in Chicago where this collosal World’s Fair was “being born.”  This decision proved momentous in many ways. In his ‘Chicago Years’ he met people who would remain professional colleagues and friends for the next four decades.   These included Frederick MacMonnies, Lorado Taft, his pupil, Carol Louise  Brooks (who MacNeil was to marry in 1895), Daniel Chester French, as well as architects Daniel Burnham, Stanford White, and Charles Follen McKim. The rest of MacNeil’s career would become a repeated succession of partnerships with these colleagues on projects, monuments, buildings, and memorials that were joint efforts of many Beaux Arts trained scupltors and architects associated with the American Academy in Rome.”The rest story has been told on  this website at:  “The Chicago Years”  [CLICK HERE]. 

Fifty years later, Hermon MacNeil, revisited these “Chicago Years” when he wrote out his thirteen page Autobiography.  Here’s what he wanted us to know:

St. Gaudens was then the great sculptor in America and in my brash way [ I ] went to N. Y. City and asked him for a job, that is, the privilege of being an apprentice.  He was kind enough to give me a letter to Philip Martiny, a very able sculptor who had considerable work at that time designing sculpture for the coming exposition in ChicagoHe rather doubtfully took me on.  At the end of the first week he asked me what I thought I should have for pay.  I had had no professional experience so I told him to set my stipend.  I would have taken $2 or $3 a day if he said so but he asked me if $5 would be enough!  I don’t think I showed any disappointment in my face and told him that was O.K.  (O.K. was not used in those days however)  So for a year I revelled [sic] in assisting in the professional work and learned a great deal.  Had in Paris learned to model the figure but in the studio to use intelligently and decoratively that knowledge was another thing again.  As a friend of Martiny’s said to me when looking at my work, “Don’t you know their is a great difference between a school study and a work of art?”  It sunk in.” [ “AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH — HERMON ATKINS MACNEIL,” June, 1943, page 4. ] Cornell University Archives.

Hamlin Garland

Garland Garland came to Chicago in 1893. 

Teen Writer.Garland began to write poetry during his teens and published his first poem in Harper’s Weekly called Lost in a Norther which announced his close connection with the adventurous American spirit and the pioneering life that would characterize a large part of his fiction.” [ https://mypoeticside.com/poets/hamlin-garland-poems ]

Keen Observer. “It wasn’t until Garland was in his early thirties though that he began to achieve some success with a collection of short stories under the title Main Travelled Roads. He used this success to move to Chicago where he gave lectures on writing in a more realistic way and later also visited the ‘untamed’ west where he observed cowboys and made copious books of notes on the life of American Indians. It was these keen character studies that he would use in his fiction in later years.”  [ https://mypoeticside.com/poets/hamlin-garland-poems ]

Scene Novelist.  When Garland moved to Chicago in 1893, he wanted to experience the events and excitement of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  He was already considered “a significant figure in the Chicago Literary Movement” and “one of Chicago’s most important authors”.[8]  He wanted to both participate and witness this global, cultural symbol of the emerging American Exceptionalism.   Garland contributed some of the featured 6,000 lectures. In doing so he became friendly with Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Rudyard Kipling, as well as Edward Eggleston, Joseph Kirkland and E.W. Howe.” [3]

 The Woodlawn neighborhood sprung up to house the explosion of workers, businesses, and commerce necessary to construct the “White City”  He settled in Woodlawn at 6427 South Greenwood Avenue, an apartment just six blocks south of the Midway and its amusements. 

Community of Artists.  The White City consisted of gleaming, white Beaux Arts structures blending Classical, Renaissance, Romanesque, and other styles.  The sculptors, architects, and artists interacted in the creation of fourteen Great Buildings. The Halls were dedicated to themes, including Electricity, Liberal Arts, Machinery, Agriculture, Administration, Machinery, Mining, Transportation, Horticulture, Fisheries, Womens Hall, Forestry, US Government, and Court of Honor.  

The White Rabbits.   The story of Larado Taft and his female assistants, The White Rabblts, has been told many times here on this website.  They did more than finish the works of their male sculptors counterparts.

The Rabbits weren’t just responsible for realizing other people’s visions; several of them also contributed their own sculptures to the fair. Scudder created an allegorical female Justice for the Illinois building as well as a sculpture for the pavilion of her home state, Indiana. Taft’s sister Zulime Garland made Flying Victory and Learning. Julia Bracken Wendt, who was already the most talented assistant in Taft’s studio before the fair, sculpted Faith; Charity was undertaken by Carrie Brooks MacNeil, Maternity by Ellen Copp, and “Art” by Bessie Potter Vonnoh.

Friendships and Romance.  While creating the these buildings and sculptures, there evolved a unique community of White City artists.  The collegiality extended through the years. Several friendships evolved into marriage.   Both Garland and MacNeil found their life partners in Larado Taft”s assistants, The White Rabbits.  A recurring community of Camp Life sprung up:

[1] “The spirit of playful camaraderie among the city’s artists was manifest in the first of several outings to Bass Lake, Indiana.  For two weeks in August 1894 Potter experienced invigorating camp life with the sculptors Lorado Taft, Carrie Brooks, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Lew Wall Moore, and Edward and Laura Swing Kemeys, And the painters Charles Francis Browne, Carl Heber, and Menthe Svenden.  Between recreational activities and spirited antics, painters and sculptors alike engaged in plein-air oil sketching of the scenery.  Evenings were given over to art lectures illustrated by the stereopticon projected on a make shift screen consisting  of a sheet stretched between trees.  Such a good time was had that the artist arranged another merry outing for September.  There after the excursions became annual events.” 

[1] Julie Aronson, Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women, Cincinnati Art Museum: Ohio University Press; Athens, Ohio. 2008, p. 31.

TWO MARRIAGES:

Hermon MacNeil married Carol (Carrie) Brooks a student of Larado Taft, and Hamlin Garland married Zulime Taft, sister of Larado. 

They all built The White City, BUT the White City sculpted their lives as well.

SOURCES:

  1. [1] Julie Aronson, Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women, Cincinnati Art Museum: Ohio University Press; Athens, Ohio. 2008, p. 31.
  2. Jamaicia Plain Historical Society [ https://www.jphs.org/people/2005/4/14/hamlin-garland-one-of-the-great-literary-pioneers-of-america.html ]

RELATED POSTS:

  1. ~ ~ ~ “The Most Happy Young Man I Know” ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Hermon A. MacNeil ~ Success & Marriage! (13) 1895 Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American Sculptor (1866-1947) MacNeil’s bronze of…
  2. “PRIMITIVE INDIAN MUSIC” ~ Part 3: 1894 Eda Lord’s Ticket to the Chicago World’s Fair (13) Eda Lord, (the woman who purchased the MacNeil bronze statue,…
  3. Hermon MacNeil at the 1893 Columbian Exposition ~ ~ ~ THE CHICAGO YEARS ~ ~ (11) CHICAGO YEARS:  Partners and Colleagues When Hermon MacNeil came home to the…
  4. Mary Lawrence: A Sculptor of “The White Rabbits” (10) Mary Lawrence was a talented sculptor.  All that is left…
  5. Part 1: “The Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit” Hermon A. MacNeil~Sculptor of the American West (8) Hermon MacNeil’s  interest in Native American culture began in (of…

I had the privilege of visiting the MAM site this week and will post a  larger story soon.  For now, here’s a quick shot of MacNeil’s “Sun Vow”.

Here’s a quick shot of MacNeil’s “Sun Vow” with yours truly camera in hand.

I had the privilege of visiting the MAM site this week and will post a  larger story soon.  For now, here’s an editorial by Frank Gerard Godlewski, Historian & NY Armory Arts Week Curator

It demonstrates a strong strain of public opinion in Montclair, NJ, concerning the “Sun Vow” a gift of Wm T. Evans. Montclair citizens have viewed and driven by this MacNeil original for over 100 years. What follows below is a re-posting of a Patch Montclair facebook page: ( https://patch.com/new-jersey/montclair/respecting-sun-vow )

Montclair Op-Ed: ‘Respecting The Sun Vow’

Regarding the Montclair Art Museum’s landscape re development proposal for the Planning Board Meeting Monday August 26 at 7:30 PM

By Frank Gerard Godlewski | | Updated

This post was contributed by a community member.
 
Montclair Op-Ed: Respecting The Sun Vow
Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947), The Sun Vow, 1899 (cast 1902), Bronze, 68 x 45 x 29 in., Gift of William T. Evans, 1913
MONTCLAIR, NJ — The following article comes courtesy of a Montclair Patch community member. Learn more about posting announcements or events to your local Patch site.The Montclair Art Museum is a cultural landscape masterpiece conceived by the visionary founding planners of our community. Today, it is an important cultural focal point and should continue to thrive and develop. It would be “bad grammer” however, within it’s dialogue with the community, for the Museum to erase our culteral/artistic legasy and its symols from our collective memory’s landscape..The Museum’s re development proposal calls for the removal of the “Sun Vow” statue which is one of the earliest art pieces collected by William T. Evans, the museum’s founder (1909). The statute, placed on its erratic naturalistic rock, occupies a prominent location in the historic landscape as does the Lebanese Cedar tree that was cultivated and planted by the local landscape design visionary Howard Van Vleck. The plan proposes to remove the existing tree and historic sculpture to create a reflecting pond and a new commissioned sculpture.The founders of the museum inteded to preserve our natural beauty and our cultural heritage. The Sun Vow statue is a symbol from our cultural past. Montclair, once the home of the Lenne Lenape has lost most of its native american symbols, except perhaps or the names like Watchung and Yanticaw. Dianne Lewis, NY architect stated at her Montclair Art Museum presentation “Why Montclair is Montclair” that “Montclair is a mystical visionary landscape that preserves the ghosts of the Native Americans. It has a tragic dimension. Montclair is not an ordinary suburban condition, it is like Fiesole in Tuscany and a becon of light seen from the distance.”The intention of Mr. Evans was to place the Sun Vow piece infront of the building so that it could be enjoyed by passers by from the street as well as the grounds. Why change that?

 
Museum’s founders were components of the Municipal Arts Commission who intended to preserve the natural beauty of Montclair with the creation of the first 1906 Master Plan.A 1902 Montclair Times Article about the Sun Vow statue states:”Object of the municipal art commission. The objective of this commission shall be to promote in all practical ways the beautifying of Montclair, to preserve the distinctive charm of the country town, and to exert influence to the end that the principle of local fitness shall be served in public and private improvements, to consider the probable future development of Montclair, and to plan for meeting it’s needs. To influence a just appreciation of the value of art in daily life and to encourage and promote the public and private use and patronage of good art in Montclair. Montclair is fortunate in having one of the notable groups of recent statuary permanently placed where our people may enjoy it. Mr. William T Evans who has brought to Montclair his choice collection of works of painters, has just placed upon his grounds the bronze group by H. A. McNeil, which received the highest award of the gold medal at Buffalo, and a silver medal at the Paris exposition. The group represents (an Indian) a native American boy taking the sun test, which is to decide whether he shall be classed with them the men of the tribe or shall go back to play with the children.… Mr. Evans, appropriate use of a great bolder of the massive granitoid gneiss of our New Jersey Highlands, as a pedestal for the group makes it easy to imagine the test on a rugged hilltop in the blazing glare of the midday sun. … The bolder was found by Mr. James Owen at Singac. It weighs 12 tons and was brought to Montclair upon a truck drawn by 12 horses.”The removal of the “Sun Vow” statue, a gift to the community from the museum’s founder as well as the proposed changes to the front yard of the museum subtract from our cultural patrimony. With the current local trends of re development, our collective memory of the township and its original beauty is disappearing. All you have to do is look down Bloomfield Avenue to see these aesthetic changes.The front yard of the Museum is a very important part of our cultural legacy. It is an icon ingrained in our community’s collective memory. Each element in front of the facade has a significance. The museum’s founders intentions and the valuable historic landscape should be respected and remain as a learning tool of our original cultural legacy to teach to the new generations to come.Frank Gerard Godlewski, Historian & NY Armory Arts Week CuratorDon’t forget to visit the Patch Montclair Facebook page. Send local news tips and correction requests to eric.kiefer@patch.com

A grounds renovation at the Montclair Art Museum could result in the removal of the bronze Sun Vow which has been at the entrance since 1914. Plans include a reflecting pond with a newly-commissioned sculpture.
Credit: DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF [Source: Montclair Local News 2019/7/03 ]

The web site has received information that  MacNeil’s “Sun Vow” may lose its place of prominence at the entry circle of the Montclair Art Museum (NJ).  The statue was a gift of the co-founder, William T. Evans.  It has been welcoming patrons to the front door for over a century after William Evans (the donor and co-founder) commissioned it in 1903, and placed it there in 1914.  

The Monclair Local contains an article by Jaimie Julia Winters titled, Sculpture Removal, Tree Loss Concerns Raised with Outdoor Expansion”

Winters states:

Plans to upgrade the grounds of the Montclair Art Museum have been met with criticism from the community and the township’s historic preservation consultant over alterations to the “cultural landscape,” tree removals and the relocation of the bronze statue by Hermon Atkins MacNeil located at the entrance since the museum opened in 1914.

The New Plan– [SOURCE: https://www.montclairlocal.news/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Screen-Shot-2019-06-28-at-1.03.25-PM-1.png/

The architectural rendering above shows the new plan. The article in the Montclair Local offers a description:

A new reflecting pond is planned for the grassy area in front of the museum on S. Mountain Avenue. Plans also include removing the Sun Vow sculpture and place a new, yet-to-be-commissioned piece of art in the pond. The cypress tree located in the front, reportedly planted by Van Vleck, will also be removed.

The circular driveway connecting the parking lot to the turn-around area will be repaved with granite blocks. Handicapped parking spaces along the driveway will also be reconfigured.

(Architect Paul) Sionas told the Historic Preservation Commission that original plans for the museum called for a reflecting pool and referred to a rendering dating back to 1915 of the museum front with people in top hats and with the statue in the middle of a reflecting pool.

The website has been contacted by “a group of concerned Montclair residents who want the sculpture to remain in its original location.”

Kathleen Bennett, chair of the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission, stated:
I am writing to you concerning the copy the Montclair Art Museum (NJ) of the “Sun Vow” which was given to the Montclair Art Museum when it opened in 1914. The donor was Mr. William T. Evans, who (we are told) commissioned the first copy for the front lawn of his mansion in Montclair in 1903. He gifted it to the Montclair Museum where it held pride-of-place until now.  The board of the museum now want to move the sculpture to another location, as yet unknown, and replace it with a “contemporary” sculpture. We are a group of concerned Montclair residents who want the sculpture to remain in its original location. 

“We feel that to move the sculpture from the front of the museum completely negates the original donor’s intentions.”

William Evans donated the Sun Vow bronze statue, which sits on a rock outside the main entrance of MAM. Bronze statues are typically duplicated in full-size. Famous works such as the Sun Vow have been reproduced in both half size and even quarter size replicas.  A half-size Sun Vow (seen below) exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (cast in 1919).  The original full-size “Sun Vow” graces the Chicago Institute of Art (cast in 1901).  The first-copy of the original may be on the move at  MAM.

"The Sun Vow" by H A MacNeil

The “Sun Vow” by H. A. MacNeil graces the courtyard of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This copy was cast in half-size later in 1919.

“Sun Vow” by Hermon MacNeil at the Art Institute of Chicago cast in 1901. [Photo by Dan Leininger, webmaster, www.HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com ]

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The MAM First copy of the “Sun Vow” is older than any other except the Art Institute of Chicago.  It is a historic piece in the world of art and the history of Montclair Art Museum (MAM)

Note BELOW the antique book plate put out be The Montclair Art Association: (date unknown).

P.S.
Kathleen Bennett praise this website by saying:   “Your website is extremely informative about Hermon Atkins MacNeil and I hope you will add Montclair’s “Sun Vow” to the site.”
Thanks Kathleen.
Here is Part One.
More to come … Stay tuned to https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com
 
Daniel Neil Leininger
webmaster
 

Mary Lawrence was a talented sculptor.  All that is left of her work in the 1893 World’s Fair are the pictures, as depicted below.

“Christopher Columbus” by Mary Lawrence at the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893, Chicago, Illinois

She became one of The White Rabbits along with Carol (Carrie) Brooks (MacNeil) and numerous other “women assistants” to Lorado Taft and other male sculptors.  They helped create “the White City” as the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair was known. The material was temporary, made of staff plaster, and modeled on wooden and medal frameworks.  The elegance of the White City inspired 

Lawrence was a pupil of Augustus Saint Gaudens at the Art Students League of New York for five years.  In that period, she proved her skills many times over. 

In the Chicago exhibition, her work with the White Rabbits was overpowered by an accomplishment central to the Court of Honor.

Saint Gaudens’ recommended that she create the theme statue of the exposition, namely, the monumental center-piece of Christopher Columbus. 1 This work was to be placed in the Court of Honor at the entrance of the Administration Building. 

Frank Millet, who served as Director of Decorations, resented that a woman “had been selected, and seemed to bear her some personal animus as well.” 2   Seeing the piece put on such a prominent place, he ordered her to move the statue to the plaza of the railroad station. Lawrence complied even though Charles F. McKim, architect for Exposition, had told to place the work at that location.  His authority to do so was second only to Daniel Burnham, the Chief Coordinating Architect.

She approached McKim a second time to tell him of the change.  He had the statue returned to the Court of Honor at the Administration Building entrance.  McKim worked with Augustus Saint Gaudens on many projects.  He was introduced to Mary Lawrence by Saint Gaudens as they collaborated in New York on early plans for the Exposition in Chicago.

Though McKim was twenty years senior to Mary Lawrence, Bruce Wilkinson describes their relationship in this way:

“Her good looks and high spirits made her popular with the young and the not so young.  Charles Follen McKim, whose second wife had died tragically after one short idyllic year, fell in love with her and remained a little so all the rest of his crowded life.”

Kim, Burnham, and especially, Lorado Taft were open to women as students and sculptors. Their show of support in the White Rabbitsdecision advanced opportunities for women for years to come. 

Janet Scudder (1869-1940) was one of Taft’s students who described her own the joy filled elation and that of her White-Rabbit-sisters in the following way:

“Janet describes working under Loredo as “That wonderful year! Filled with work, filled with accomplishment and filled with what was considered in those days a very fat salary!”[2] The salary was so large that, upon being paid, “We rushed back to our rooms at the hotel, opened the envelopes and poured out the five-dollar bills (for some reason we were paid our hundred and fifty dollars in five-dollar bills,) and carpeted the floor with them. We wanted to see what it felt like to walk on money.” [3] 3

The Joy of the “White Rabbits” changed their lives and the future of sculpture.

Women and men working on figures for the East entrance to the Horticulture Building in Taft’s section of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Chicago History Museum Images. SOURCE: [ At: https://discoverherstory.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/white-rabbits-american-women-sculptors/ on March 1, 2019.]

 

Footnotes:

  1. White City

    Most of the buildings of the fair were designed in the neoclassical architecture style. The area at the Court of Honor was known as The White City. Façades were made not of stone, but of a mixture of plaster, cement, and jute fiber called staff, which was painted white, giving the buildings their “gleam”. Architecture critics derided the structures as “decorated sheds”. The buildings were clad in white stucco, which, in comparison to the tenements of Chicago, seemed illuminated. It was also called the White City because of the extensive use of street lights, which made the boulevards and buildings usable at night.
  2. Bruce Wilkinson, Uncommon Clay: The Life and Works of Augustus Saint Gaudens. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, Orlando, Florida, 1985, p. 249
  3. Ibid.
  4. Janet Scudder: “White Rabbits: American Women Sculptors”. [ At: https://discoverherstory.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/white-rabbits-american-women-sculptors/ on March 1, 2019.]

 

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
Hosting & Tech Support: Leiturgia Communications, Inc.           WATCH US GROW

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