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 Charles Francis Browne

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…

The Hamlin Garland Memorial Highway ~

Brown County, South Dakota

Hamlin Garland https://mypoeticside.com/wp-content/uploads/gallery-images/e6845fc.jpeg 

Hamlin Garland Highway in Brown County South Dakota.
[Credit: Hamlin Garland Society]

 

 

​In June 1936, the Brown County Commissioners named a section of Brown County Highway 11, for a total of 10 miles, the “Hamlin Garland Memorial Highway.” This section travels past the homestead of Garland’s father, Richard, who homesteaded in 1881. In 1998, new signs were placed along this stretch of paved road noting the name of the highway. 

[ Hamlin Garland Society of Aberdeen, SD   http://www.garlandsociety.org/ ]

Hamlin Garland Highway in South Dakota.

GARLAND TOWNSHIP–This township was named after Hamlin Garland, a novelist, who lived in this area with his pioneer parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Garland.  The land south and west of Columbia [and Ordway] was immortalized by this writer in “Among the Corn Rows,” and “A Son of the Middle Border.”

SOURCE:  Information courtesy of Gene Aisenbrey ~ Hamlin Garland Society of Aberdeen, SD  Contact: garlandsociety@gmail.com      Copyright © 2015

Garland information on the web:

In 1895 HAMLIN GARLAND led Hermon MacNeil and Francis Brown to the four corners area (AZ, NM, CO, UT) to witness the Native American people and culture there.

  • Hamlin Garland Highway in South Dakota. [SOURCE:  Information courtesy of Gene Aisenbrey ~ Hamlin Garland Society of Aberdeen, SD ~ Contact: garlandsociety@gmail.com  Copyright © 2015 ]
  • Hamlin Garland Biography  (Wisconsin Authors and Their Works)

    • A Biography of three pages
    • One of Garland’s Grant Interviews with Julia Dent Grant (1826-1902) widow of General U. S. Grant
  • SD Historical Society: “Hamlin Garland’s South Dakota: History and Story” https://www.sdhspress.com/journal/south-dakota-history-9-3/hamlin-garlands-dakota-history-and-story/vol-09-no-3-hamlin-garlands-dakota.pdf
  • A brief Garland bio (Al Filreis)

~ A Poem by Hamlin Garland ~

“Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane:
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you’ll walk like a man!”

Their  adventure in 1895 led into Native settlements in Colorado, Arizona (Moqui, Navajo), New Mexico, and Utah:

  •  Hamlin Garland, led the tour to the southwest in the summer of 1895. MacNeil & Browne wanted to gain direct experience of American Indians to inform their art. What the trio found reflected in their respective painting, sculpture and writing.
  • MacNeil sculpted a cement statue of Chief Manuelito for trader C. N. Cotton under a tent in the dessert. His subsequent sculptures of Native Americans after that summer of 1895 continued his cultural interest.  That fascination began with his friendship and sculpting of Black Pipe, the Sioux warrior. He first met Black Pipe at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  The Sioux modeled for MacNeil and later worked in his studio for over a year before MacNeil’s trip with Garland.
  • Charles Francis Browne was a painter and friend (his room mate in Paris) who accompanied Hermon MacNeil and the author.
  • Edward Everett Ayers was an art patron to both MacNeil and Browne.  He had been a Civil War Calvary officer stationed in the southwestern United States.  He became a lumberman who made a fortune selling railroad ties and telephone poles. He urged MacNeil to travel to see the vanishing West of the American Indian.  He became an arts benefactor whose art collections are now housed by the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as, the Newberry Library.    His copy of MacNeil’s “Moqui Runner” still graces the Newberry Library.

Related Posts:

 

Rarest of the Rare!   A very rare Silver – Society of Medalists #3 – by ‘H. A. MacNeil’ (in lower right).

It is “Silver.”

Only twenty-five were minted in 1931.

In the summer of 1895, Hermon MacNeil traveled to the Southwest.  With Hamlin Garland and Charles Francis Browne, they journey by railroad to the four-corners region of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

With Garland as guide the sculptor and the artist witnessed Native American culture first hand. They visited the Hopi and Navajo reservations immersed in Native American life. They saw the “Prayer for Rain” ~ the Snake Dance ceremony depicted here on the SOM #3.

The “Prayer for Rain” depicts the Moqui (Hopi) runner carrying the snakes to the river to activate the rain cycle of nature. [SOM #3 Reverse]

This Society of Medalists Issue #3, in Silver, by Hermon MacNeil is rare.  This silver “Beauty” is the only one I have seen in my ten years of “Searching for Uncle Hermon” and producing this website.

ONLY 25 were made in SILVER (99.9%).

The Silver issue of MacNeil’s medallion is among the rarest of the rare.  

Over sixty-times that number  were struck in  Bronze  (1,713).  Now nearly eight decades later, those are more common, but also rare and collectible.   [See pictured below — at the end of this article — this author’s collection of the varied Bronze patinas of S.O.M #3.]

The next year (1932), Frederick MacMonnies sculpted a medallion celebrating Charles A. Lindbergh historic flight.  250 of those medallions were struck in Silver.  That makes the Lindbergh issue ten times more common than MacNeil’s “Hopi”.  (10 X 25) — 

Silver minting of most SOM Issues quantities usually ranged from 50 to 125.  Most often 100 silver specimens were struck.  SO the 25 of the MACNEIL’S “Prayer for Rain” creations are twice as rare and up to 10 times as rare as other SOM Issues.

This, all Society of Medalists (SOM) in Silver can be considered rare.  However, this MacNeil piece is definitely “THE RAREST OF THE RARE!”

This images that MacNeil’s placed of the Obverse and Reverse had been burned in his visual memory in 1895.  They lived in his artist’s awareness for decades. It is no stretch to say that they inspired numerous sculptures and pieces that came out of his studio. 

“The Moqui Runner,” “The Primitive Chant,” were “living” in his mind when he first saw these scenes. Then, three decades later, he chose them for his own theme and design.  Thus, the 1931 Society of Medalists Issue #3 became his offering to this young series by American Sculptors.

The following are just a few of the sculptures and monuments, which re-capture some of the Native American culture and history first observed in this 1895 trip to the Hopi (Moqui) people.

By comparison, the SOM’s issued from:

  • 1930 to 1944. ~ struck 2X to 5X this quantity of SILVER medallions. 
  • 1945 to 1950. ~ those SOM silver issues were minted in quantities of 50 to 60.
  • 1950 to 1972. ~ NO silver medallions were struck. 
  • 1973 to 1979. ~ Silver medallions ranged from 140-200. 
  • No Silver coins were struck from 1980-1995
  • In 1995 the “Society of Medalists Series” closed production.

In 1931 design the the Society of Medalist medal #3, Hermon MacNeil chose to immortalize his memory of these images from 1895 in rare silver — 99.9% fine silver!

A Rare Beauty Indeed.   Hi Ho, Silver !

MacNeil Display MacNeil Medallion (front and reverse) in Center. Framed by 10 SOM #3 (Obverse & reverse) of varied patinas. SOURCE: Collection of Webmaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

Information taken from the six page list entitled: Medal Collectors of America; Checklist of “The Society of Medalists” Issues 1930 – Date. Originally written by D. Wayne Johnson with rights retained by him; used with permission.

His listing includes the original pricing supplied by Paul Bosco in the inaugural issue of the MCA’s publication “The Medal Cabinet” (Summer 2000) for the silver issues and Paul’s update values for the bronze pieces that appeared in the Spring/Summer 2002 edition of “The MCA Advisory.”

Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) – “Hopi” (Obverse) and “Prayer for Rain” (Reverse)  Society of Medallists (SOM), Issue #3 of 1931, was based on MacNeil’s “Moqui (Hopi) Runner” statue of 1897.  This was the only SOM issue that MacNeil would ever sculpt.  Yet nearly fifty years later (1943), he vividly described these images of his 1895 travels to the Hopi (Moqui) Mesa in his Autobiographical Sketches.

MacNeil’s brief artists intro accompanying the medal is as follows:

Four examples of various finish patinas medals that MacNeil selected for SOM#3 in 1931 (from collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

Four examples of various finish patinas on medals that MacNeil selected for SOM#3 in 1931 (Reverse view. From collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

“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.”

In the documentation accompanying each medal, MacNeil offered the following additional narrative of his witnessing of this ritual nearly 36 years earlier while on his 1895 venture to the Southwest with Hamlin Garland and Charles F. Browne:

This is one of their greatest and most important ceremonies. Occurring in August, it is filled with ritualism for nine days and in their kiva, an underground chamber, they have ceremonies with these snakes that have been gathered by the antelope and snake clans of their tribe for six days, from the north, east, south and west, also from above and below, therefore from all the directions of the universe. These snakes, so far as our best authority goes, although a portion of them are poisonous varieties, are not tampered with but are handled freely by the Indians, both during their underground ceremonies, and later on the last day above ground, in their public ceremony. During the last day ceremony they dance two and two, one with the snakes in his mouth, sometimes two at a time, while the other, accompanying him, wards off the head of the snake from the face of his companion with an eagle feather. It will be remembered that the eagle preys on the snake in nature and the smell of the eagle feather is supposed to frighten the snake with the intention of preventing him from biting.  This ceremony was so intense and apparently so vital to them that although I myself saw two Indians bitten, they seem to be so completely under the control of the spirit that although I watched for further developments, yet there seemed to be no swelling or poisonous effects from the bites.

Even though the dancing takes place after the participants have taken hardly any food during the nine days, yet immediately after the public ceremony, which is performed in a circular action around the sacred stone on the mesa at Waslpi, they each take an emetic. After circling twice around the sacred rock, the one bearing snakes in his mouth emits them and a third follower immediately grabs the snake from the ground and carries it back to a little improvised enclosure of cottonwood boughs. After all the snakes have been used on this manner each Indian grabs into the bunch and with his hands filled with the snakes, each one starts running down the trail off the mesa onto the plains as shown on the reverse side of the medal and figuratively deposits the snakes again in their underground abodes.

Obverse of SOM#3 by Hermon MacNeil (collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

Obverse of SOM#3 by Hermon MacNeil (collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

Behind the heads of the dancers on the obverse is shown the sand picture drawn by the Indians themselves with colored earths on the floor of their kiva or underground chamber, about which they performed sacred ceremonials previous to the public dance. On this side of the medal the attempt is also made to show the apparent basic reason for the use of the snake in this prayer for water. This reason or theory seems to have evolved from the similarity in action between the snake on the earth and the lightning in the sky. The Indian, however, has evolved the theory of a kind of cousinship through these angular moving reptiles with the still more angular movement of the lightning to jar the rain clouds for rain, thus making their chief need their strongest prayer. Curiously enough, although there had been no sign of rain for weeks, the day following the remarkable ceremony, a little cloud appeared in the sky and the next day it rained copiously.” 

[ SOURCE: Society of Medalists documentation accompanying the medals; reproduced at “Medals4Trade” ]

1931 "Moqui Rain Dance" (reverse) SOM #3 ~ Dan Leininger, webmaster

1931 “Moqui Rain Dance” (Obverse) SOM #3 ~ Dan Leininger, webmaster

Hermon MacNeil’s  interest in Native American culture began in (of all places) Chicago.  Before he ever traveled to the Southwest in 1895 to visit the Hopi (Moqui), and Navajo people, Native culture visited him in Chicago.

"Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit" photo of plaster model from MacNeil's Studio. (Credit: Photo Archives Smithsonian American Art Museum)

The live Native model for “The Primitive Chant” (at left) was a Sioux warrior by the name of Black Pipe.    Hermon first saw Black Pipe in the ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show’ at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. That winter, MacNeil found Black Pipe cold and desolate on the sidewalks of Chicago. MacNeil said that he gave him food and work as a model and an assistant in MacNeil’s studio (shared with Charles F. Browne).

More than being a model called in to portray an idea of the sculptor, Black Pipe portrayed a Native ritual dance, an ecstatic religious experience. The full title “Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit,” implies a religious experience that the native was depicting.  Lorado Taft, in his criticisms below, seems to miss the probable point of how this image came to be.  This image is not MacNeil’s in the mind of the artist, rather it is in the ecstatic religious memory of the model, Black Pipe.  I wonder how Hermon MacNeil experienced this Sioux’s portrayal as the warrior was transported in an ecstatic dance offered to the Great Spirit. MacNeil said that Black Pipe worked for him for the next year and a half. The Sioux warrior is immortalized in this piece and in the facial portrait pictured below. (Both photos are part of the Smithsonian Achieveshttp://siris-juleyphoto.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?&profile=all&source=~!sijuleyphotos&uri=full=3100001~!128333~!0 )

 

MacNeil's bronze of Blackpipe, a Sioux warrior he befriended in 1893 (source Smithsonian Archives)

The urging and support of Edward Everett Ayers led MacNeil and two companions, Hamlin Garland and Charles F. Browne, to travel to the southwestern territories (four-corners of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah) in the summer of 1895.  Their goals were to witness the vanishing images of the Native people,  of the Southwest.

MacNeil made plaster models of native images and events and shipped them back to Chicago for later inspiration.   Many of the sculptures that he made in Rome to fulfill the Rinehart Scholarship requirements were based on these early studies from the Southwest. These would include the ‘Moqui Runner’, and the ‘Sun Vow’.  Returning to these themes three decades later, he crafted the Society of Medalists Issue #3 in 1931, after the “Moqui Runner” and the “Hopi Prayer for Rain.” His 106 foot long bas relief frieze on the North side of the Missouri Capitol contains a section that seems to be the basis for the SOM #3 Issue of 1931 called “Hopi Prayer for Rain.”

Lorado Taft ‘imagined’ MacNeil’s ‘days’ in Rome in very ‘idealistic’ terms.  He suggested that the Reinhart Rome Scholarship must have given MacNeil an ideal time for focused ‘days’ of study:

“Four years of them with three hundred and sixty-five days in each year! To live in the Villa dell’ Aurora, to work upon subjects of one’s own choice, with no care and all expenses paid — what better could an artist ask for.? The only requirements made by the trustees were “satisfying evidences of industry,” to be attested in the form of “a  life-size figure at the end of the second year, a relief containing two life-size figures before the close of the third year, and during the fourth year a life-size group of two or more figures in the round.” [Lorado Taft, The History of American Sculpture, 1903, p. 439].

In his, THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN SCULPTURE, published in 1903, Taft critiques several of MacNeils sculptures in very flattering terms.  He praises the ‘technical quality’ of this piece while questioning the artist choice of a dancer playing his armpit as a musical instrument.  His exact words are offered in the passage below:

The next figure, ” A Primitive Chant,” possesses every technical quality of good sculpture. While the idea of an Indian making strange noises by blowing or shouting in the crook of his arm awakens no responsive thrill of imagination, this is nevertheless a powerful work. Its triumph is all the more marked since our surrender is, in a sense, an unwilling one. We are not prejudiced in favor of this tuneful creature, who, unlike a Hector or an Achilles, brings to his aid no emotional backing of poetry, no prestige of three thousand years’ success upon the ” boards.” This is sculpture pure and simple, — beauty of form, strength with refinement of modelling, compactness, breadth. The figure kneels, taking hold of the earth with powerful limbs ; the hands are clasped, the right elbow tight across the body, the arm raised at a right angle, concealing largely the savage face. The expanded chest and powerful back have fascinated the sculptor ; he has shaped them superbly.

Larado Taft's words describe this kneeling pose of "The Primitive Chant." The 'upright-dancing-warrior' is a more commonly seen version of MacNeil's work.

That these are adequate reasons for the statue one is hardly prepared to say, though such beauty of modelling is almost a sufficient excuse. The trouble is that with nine persons out of ten, nay, with ninety-nine out of the hundred, beautiful modelling is not interesting nor a raison d’etre ; and with the more thoughtful the very fact of such costly elaboration enhances the perplexity. Why so much labor and so much time expended upon a thing unbeautiful in idea? With all its masterful workmanship, and even its sculptural pose, it remains but an illustration of an incident, a custom; curious it may be, and even to some persons moderately interesting, but possessing for none a deep significance. Where does the emotion come in — the poetic thrill which we are told is fundamental in the genesis of every great work of art, and which in turn a truly great work must convey in some fashion and some degree to men and women of taste? We are obliged to admit that in the lack of any supplementary hint at a deeper import — as of mourning or of love-making, of solitude, or of worship — the only response awakened by the action of the figure is a rather unsympathetic query regarding the nature of the “music” produced in so outlandish a fashion!” (pp. 437-439.)

According to the Smithsonian Institute:

Hermon A. MacNeil
A Primitive Chant to the Great Spirit
modeled by 1901
bronze
24 1/2 x 6 1/8 x 8 3/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum,

Gift of Maurice Kawashima in honor of Dr. Richard Wunder

http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/t2go/1lw/index-noframe.html?/exhibitions/online/t2go/1lw/1996.27.html

MacNeil has interpreted an Indian dancer as he chants into the crook of his upraised arm. The model for this sculpture was a Sioux Indian named Black Pipe, who was part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Black Pipe remained in Chicago after the fair closed and became a regular model and studio assistant for MacNeil. The artist maintained a studio in Chicago, but traveled many times to the Southwest to observe Indian rituals, costumes, crafts, and ceremonies firsthand. In Primitive Chant, MacNeil captures the physical beauty and grace of the Native American, which he compared to that of Greek warriors.

1895
Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American Sculptor (1866-1947)

MacNeil’s bronze of Blackpipe, a Sioux warrior he befriended in 1893 (source Smithsonian Archives)

December of 1895 was an exciting time in the life of Hermon A. MacNeil — A time when he was described as “the most happy young man I know.”

Chicago. In fact, 1985, in general, had been a productive year for the sculptor.  Following the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, times had been tough for both artists and Fair workers.   MacNeil had found Black Pipe, (the Sioux from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show), cold and hungry on the streets of Chicago.  He took him in as studio help and a model for future sculptures. 

Marquette.  During 1895, Hermon had completed the four bronze panels depicting the life of Fr. Jacques (Père) Marquette.  They were put in place over the four entry doors of the Marquette Building (CLICK HERE) where he and his artist friend, Charles F. Browne, shared a studio. 


Panel 4 – “The de Profundis was intoned ..

According to information from the MacArthur Foundation (current owner and curator of the Marquette Building), Amy Aldis Bradley wrote in 1895 to Peter Brooks:

After commissioning MacNeil for the exterior bronzes, Aldis wrote to Peter Brooks, “McNeil’s [sic] panels are being placed in position. It is greatly to their and his credit that these bas-reliefs have won for him the Roman [Reinhart] Fellowship. The Commission, choosing him as the best of the very young men…The young sculptor was married on Christmas Day, and sailed for Rome on Wednesday, and is, on the whole, the most happy young man I know. He is very grateful to the owners of the Marquette Building.” (http://marquette.macfound.org/slide/herman-macneil/ )

 Rinehart Prize. In December,  he received news that he had been named as recipient of the Rinehart Roman Scholarship for study in Rome.  Newspapers such as the Nov. 25, 1895 Chicago Tribune (CLICK HERE), and the Dec. 22, 1895 -New York Sun, (CLICK HERE) (columns 5 & 6), contained the news of the selection of this 29 year-old western artist to receive the Prix Rome.

H.A.MacNeil ~1895 sketch - Chicago-Sun
H.A.MacNeil ~1895 sketch – The Sun (New York City)

The sculptors on the committee that selected MacNeil for the  award were the ‘giants’ among American sculptors of the 19th century. As mentioned in the above newspapers, the Rinehart Roman committee included Augustus Saint Gaudens, John Quincy Adams Ward, and Daniel Chester French

These famous sculptors were in the prime of their careers.  Saint Gaudens, at 47, had been the sculptural advisor for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  One tradition suggests that MacNeil asked Saint Gaudens for a letter of reference to Phillip Martiny that got him work on the  that Exposition in  1893. John Quincy Adams Ward, at age 65 was the ‘grandfather’ of American sculptors, and the founder as well as standing president of the National Sculpture Society. Daniel Chester French, age 45, was also a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and sculpted the colossal sixty-foot golden “Republic” centerpiece statue for the Chicago Fair. ( A thirty foot tall miniature golden replica of which still graces Jackson Park in Chicago today.)

Marriage:

On Christmas Day 1895, in Chicago, he married Carol Louise Brooks, also a sculptor. 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 study together under the same masters and  live on the shared income of Hermon’s Rinehart Scholarship.  (Carol  had also studied sculpture with both Lorado Taft and Frederick William MacMonnies and been a member of “The White Rabbits” ~ a self christened group of women sculptors called in to complete the massive work load of ‘staff’ statues needed for the Chicago Fair in 1893. )

Future:

Other events from 1895 would later unfold into sculpture-opportunities for Hermon MacNeil. In May in Greenwich Village, New York City, Stanford White, with assistance from both Frederick MacMonnies and Phillip Martiny, completed a permanent Washington Arch. 

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1895 photo of Empty pedestals on the new Washington Arch with New Yorkers strolling into the popular park.  The skyline includes Judson Memorial Church tower to the right of the Arch.  NYC Citizens would wait more than twenty years before the MacNeil and Calder tributes to George Washington as Commander-in-Chief and as President would be commissioned and put in place in 1916 and 1918. (Photo credit: NYC -Architecture.com: ~  http://nyc-architecture.com/GV/GV046WashingtonSquareArch.htm)

The first one, made in 1889 of paper and wood, commemorated the centennial of  the inauguration of  George Washington.  Received with great popularity, the citizens of NYC demanded a permanent Arch monument for their first President.  White’s design was dedicated on May 4, 1895 with two empty pedestals, meant for statues of Washington.  These niches on the north face of the monument remained empty for almost two decades before MacNeil’s statue of Washington as Commander-in-Chief would fill one pedestal (east side, in 1916), and Alexander Stirling Calder’s statue of Washington as Statesman would fill the other (west side, in 1918).

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