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 and info about these works by MacNeil. ]

~ 2016 marked the 150th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil's birth on February 27,

Take a Virtual Journey

This website seeks to transport you through miles and years with a few quick clicks of a mouse or keyboard or finger swipes on an iPad.

Perhaps you walk or drive by one of MacNeil's many sculptures daily. Here you can gain awareness of this artist and his works.

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

Maybe there are some near you!

Archive for “Sun Vow”

Hermon Atkins MacNeil about the time of his Standing Liberty works.

Hermon Atkins MacNeil about the time of his Standing Liberty works.

Hermon A. MacNeil Commemorative sketched by Artist Charles D. Daughtrey as the seventh work in his Series of Coin Designers is available at http://www.cdaughtrey.com/

Hermon A. MacNeil Commemorative sketched by Artist Charles D. Daughtrey as the seventh work in his Series of Coin Designers is available at http://www.cdaughtrey.com/

Here at the HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com website we celebrate every February as

“MacNeil Month”

in honor of the birth of

Hermon Atkins MacNeil

February 27th, 1866. 

This is the first of several postings that will celebrate this theme.  Hermon’s older cousin, Tom Henry MacNeil (my grandfather), was born on February 29th, 1860.  So February is MacNeil Month in several ways.

Here is a recent video of the Sun Vow to start off our month of celebration:

[ CLICK HERE to SEE “SUN VOW” video ]

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My recent post about our December 3rd journey on the CTA Blue Line train to the Chicago Loop and the Art Institute of Chicago ended with a discussion of “The Sun Vow” and my photo array taken in the Sculpture Court.  [Searching for Uncle Hermon in Chicago ~ “The Sun Vow” ]

Another MacNeil piece just steps away in the adjoining American Gallery provides a “preface” to the story of “The Sun Vow”.

Modeled in 1894 that earlier piece was called “Vow of Vengeance.” It shows one of MacNeil’s early studies in Native American depiction.  It followed his exposure to the Chicago World Fair, his fascination with sketching the Indians in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and his modeling work with Black Pipe. (Black Pipe was a young Sioux who worked in Hermon’s studio and modeled for several pieces during 1893-94.  He helped with physical labor in the studio as well.  CLICK for MORE on Black Pipe and “Primitive Chant”) 

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MacNeil’s early study “Vow of Vengeance” that evolved into “The Sun Vow”. Art Institute of Chicago. [ Photo Credit: Dan Leininger, 2014 ]

Several pieces dated 1894 seemed to be early prototypes for later larger works and castings.  The “Vow of Vengeance” appears to be one of the more prominent.  I know of no other copies elsewhere.

A blog about the Art Institute observes some mingling of the identity of the two pieces:

The Vow of Vengeance -1894
By Hermon Atkins MacNeil.
What’s in a name?
Well, somehow I noticed a discrepancy in the name..
The Art Institute website calls it – The Vow of Vengeance [1894]
But marker at the Art Institute has the name – The Sun Vow [Modeled-1898, Cast-1901]. http://theartinstituteofchicago.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html.

 The Two “Vows” Compared  IMG_0698

While the “Vow of Vengeance” and “The Sun Vow” contain similar elements, what they communicate seems quite different:

  1. TITLE: The two titles carry contrasting emotional messages. The first (Vow of Vengeance) conveys negative aggression and hostile feeling toward some enemy, while the second (Sun Vow) depicts a more positive rite of passage from boyhood to manhood within a setting of family and tribal affirmation.
  2. GROUPING: The boy and the Elder (Warrior, Chief) are grouped to convey different emotional tones in the two pieces.  In “Vengeance,” the chief wears his war bonnet on his head. He is dressed to present tribal authority to the enemy. His face seems harsh and his posture stiff.  The Boy strains his head high up into the air.  Their grouping seems tense. IMG_0678In “Sun Vow” the two figures are closer and seem to be “more one.” The Chief has removed his bonnet so as to lean into the boy’s line of sight. The boy is also more grace-full. He looks to the arrow and the sun without straining.  Both gaze in the seeming wonder and mystical pleasure of the physical rite. 

1894 ~ Prototype Year:

In addition to the “Vow of Vengeance” we have found evidence of another prototype from 1894.

A previous posting tells James Dixon’s story of a MacNeil piece acquired by his Great-great grandmother, Edna Lord.  The sculpture bears the title  “Primitive Music” on its base.  [ CLICK Here for more ]

Photos on that previous post suggest that Edna Lord’s  “Primitive Indian Music” was an early prototype of the “Primitive Chant” (which was much more polished and finely surfaced)

It is also based on “Black Pipe”, the young Sioux Brave. MacNeil  first saw Black Pipe at the Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and we know that he returned many times to study the Indians.   Like MacNeil, I have return to this story of “Black Pipe”, the young Sioux Brave, numerous times, and perhaps, will return many more.  ~~  DNL

Hermon MacNeil ~ After the World’s Columbian Exposition

The period after the end of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was a lean, even dry time, financially for Hermon MacNeil. We do know that he continued to maintain a studio, sculpt models, teach at the Art Institute of Chicago, and associate with art colleagues and benefactors there. Yet, it seems a productive time of transition, expression, and experimentation for the as the young sculptor.

Traveling to the Art Museum, we walked out of the underground on Dearborn Street just a block south of the Marquette Building which is home to Hermon MacNeil’s 1895 sculptures of 4 bronze relief panels [Cick Here]. This commission marked his recognition and selection for the award of the Rinehart Roman Scholarship.  This began 3 years in Rome and another in Paris for he and his young bride, Carol Brooks. The bronze reliefs stands today as an icon to Marquette and his life among the Native peoples. The building has been restored by the MacArthur Foundation and now houses their international headquarters.

Those works tell the story Father Marquette explorations to Native peoples of Illinois. MacNeil would return to Chicago and the Marquette themes three decades later as he sculpted the bronze grouping [CLICK HERE] of Pere Marquette, Louis Jolliete, and an Illinois Indian on Marshall Boulevard.  Commissioned by the Benjamin Franklin Ferguson  Monument Fund, this sculpture has faced the greenway of the boulevard for 88 years.

Our trip was a satisfying success as our daughter took our pictures at hefoot of the Monument.

Our trip was a satisfying success as our daughter took our pictures at hefoot of the Monument.

On a cold December day we took the CTA Blue Line to Jackson street and walked out of the underground on Dearborn Street at the Federal Court Building.  We were just a block south of the Marquette Building which is home to Hermon MacNeil’s 1895 sculptures of 4 bronze relief panels [Cick Here] that tell the story Father Marquette explorations to Native peoples of Illinois.

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We walked past the Federal Courts, then turned east toward the Art Institute of Chicago.

There sculptor Edward Kemeys’ twin bronze Lions (Mr. Defiance and Mr. Prowl) greeted us at the entrance in their Holiday regalia. They have stood guard there since 1893 when Mrs. Henry Field commissioned them.

Above is “Mister ‘In-an-Attitude-of-Defiance’,” as he rests on a Christmas package that normally is his base.  The mood was festive as sixty people smiled and waited on the steps (between Mr. Prowler and Mr. Defiance) until the Museum doors were opened at 10 am.

1) Prowler and Defiance,  2)Mrs. Henry Field, and 3) Hermon MacNeil are all contemporaries of the 1893-95 era of the Chicago World’s Fair (Worlds Columbian Exposition).

Once inside we spent the morning admiring early art of Dutch and French collections. Eventually, we came opon a fovorite, Jules Adolphe Breton’s The Song of the Lark, (1884).

Part of the Field Collection, French artist, Jules Adolphe Breton's The Song of the Lark, 1884. is admired by a happy visitor.

Part of the Field Collection, French artist, Jules Adolphe Breton’s The Song of the Lark, 1884. is admired by a happy visitor.

After some lunch in the modern art area, we went to find MacNeil’s “Sun Vow”.  Here are my results.

While I could go on-and-on about this most famous of Uncle Hermon’s works, I will let my photographs speak for themselves.  Enjoy!

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Several sculptures of Hermon Atkins MacNeil are featured in a current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City continuing through April 13, 2014.  The show entitled “The American West in Bronze, 1850-1925”  contains three parts: Indians, wild animals, and cowboys.

A MacNeil "Sun Vow" sculpture housed in the Founder's gallery of the Reading Public Museum in Reading, PA

A MacNeil “Sun Vow” sculpture housed in the Founder’s gallery of the Reading Public Museum in Reading, PA

Another Chief of the Mulnomah

Another “Chief of the Mulnomah” was identified at Mount Vernon, Ohio in an August 2013 inquiry from Linnette Porter-Metler of the Mt. Vernon and Knox County Library Staff. The date ’03’ follows MacNeil’s signature.

Three MacNeil works of early Native American images are visible online in an 8 photo slide show of the exhibit. They are apparently part of the “Indians” segment of the show.  CLICK HERE for the link to this slide show.  The MacNeil works include The Chief of the Multnomah (slide #3 in left background); The Moqui Runner (slide #6 foreground); The Sun Vow (slide #6 right rear).  

The exhibit has received some criticism in a NY Times art review entitled  “Manifest Destiny at the Point of a Gun” by Ken Johnson.  The MacNeil pieces are specifically not mentioned in Johnson’s critique. 

(More on Ken Johnson’s comments in the another article.)

MacNeil's "Moqui Runner" at the Newberry Library (photo by webmaster - bkgd removed)

MacNeil’s “Moqui Runner” at the Reading Room of the Newberry Library  in Chicago. This piece is a gift of Edward Everett Ayer who encouraged and marketed 12 castings of this piece for MacNeil during his early years in Rome 1896-99.  (photo by Dan Leininger, webmaster – bkgd removed)

“The American West in Bronze, 1850-1925” continues through April 13 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org.

 

"Moqui Runner", "Prayer for Rain"

"A Primitive Chant"

A MacNeil "Sun Vow"

"A Chief of the Multnomah"

 

Chief Manuelito of the Navajo sculpted by Hermon A. MacNeil in 1895 two years after the Chief's death at age 75.

This topic seems a strange fit for a website devoted to the art of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, an American Sculptor of the 19th and 20th centuries, born in Massachuesetts of Scottish descendents. 

Please, bear with me briefly while I take you on a journey toward today’s Native American Day story.  

STEP ONE:  An arrogant sense of Manifest Destiny often accompanied many 19th and 20th Century concepts of American culture, history, and pride.  An inescapable irony in our own 21st Century, is that Hermon MacNeil and many of his contemporary sculptors placed many Native American images at the center stage of the historical and allegorical sculptures of World Fairs from 1890 to 1915.  That is quite visible throughout this website.  I am beginning to find that MacNeil’s embrace of Native American themes in his sculpting, especially from 1895-1905, still offers us lessons more than a century later in understanding culture, anthropology and life values. 

STEP TWO:  Today is Native American Day in South Dakota, my home for the last 31 years.  I understand that California is the only other state celebrating a Native American Day.  “In 1989 the South Dakota legislature unanimously passed legislation proposed by Governor George S. Mickelson to proclaim 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between Native Americans and whites, to change Columbus Day to Native American Day and to make Martin Luther King’s birthday into a state holiday. Since 1990 the second Monday in October has been celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota.” [ Wikipedia: Native American Day:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_Day ]  In April 1993, Governor George Mickelson, a friendly giant of a man, and eight civic leaders were killed in a tragic plane crash in Iowa.  His death was a great loss to this state and to hopes of Reconciliation.  We still observe the day, even if it is in a subdued fashion.

STEP THREEI am Daniel Neil Leininger, founding webmaster of HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com.  I am a Caucasian descendant of Scottish German stock. My maternal grandfather. Thomas Henry McNeil (1860-1932), was a cousin to Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947).  My mother, Ollie McNeil Leininger, always called Hermon MacNeil her “Uncle Hermon.” My middle name, Neil, was my mother’s gift.  It reminds me of my heritage.

STEP FOUR:  In researching the sculpture of MacNeil in recent years, I have developed a growing sense of “historical irony” in his placement of Native American images to symbolize the vitality of American expansion westward through his cultural era of Manifest Destiny.  His choice moves against the strong current of self-absorption in contemporary cultures, both his and ours.

MacNeil's sculpture design for the Award Medals at the Pan American Exhibitition, Buffalo, NY 1901 (reverse). Note the shields with South and North American continents

EXAMPLES 1-5: See photos above:

EXAMPLE 6:  MacNeil made a Pan American Exhibition Award Medallion with an indigenous North American and an indigenous South American sharing a Peace Pipe.  Probably a corrupted mix of Native images, but it is a allegory, a visually symbolic representation carrying a larger meaning.

THE STORY OF MacNEIL and CHIEF MANUELITO:

MacNeil never met Chief Manuelito.  Two years after his death, MacNeil made a statue of him using only a photograph supplied by trader C. N. Cotton. The year was 1895.  Thirty years earlier, Manuelito had survived the “scorched-earth” missions of the U.S. Army under Gen. James H. Carleton and Col. Kit Carson, the “Long Walk” (a 320 mile forced march of men women and children through the deserts) to Bosque Rodondo, and the imprisonment of Native peoples there for four years. 

Navajo Chief Manuelito - taken between 1868 and his death in 1893. He was a war Chief of the 1860. (photo Credit: ASU- Denver Public Library).

MacNeil made the statue  tribute out of available materials.  He built a wooden frame, a wire mesh surface and sculpted cement around it forming an eight foot two inch tall image of the Chief wrapped in a bright native blanket.   His techniques seem to mirror the many ‘staff plaster’ statues he made for the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.  He was visiting the southwest that summer with friends Hamlin Garland (writer) and C.F. Browne (artist) to experience the vanishing Native culture at the urging od E. E. Ayers and others.

As the story goes, after he finished he asked Cotton if the piece was acceptable.  Cotton left and brought in a group of older Native women to enter the canvas enclosure where MacNeil had setup a  open-air studio workshop.  After much weeping, the women, one of whom was Manuelito’s wife, came out obviously moved by the experience of being with the piece. 

See my previous stories on Manuelito and MacNeil, and MacNeil’s two friends, Hamlin Garland and C.F. Browne.

Edward E. Ayers was the  benefactor of the three artists  who urged them to make the trip.   A former member of the First California Cavalry Volunteers of the U.S. Army in AZ during the Civil War and the Native American oppressions of the 1860s,Ayers was stationed at the Cerro Colorado Silver Mine (now a ghost town) south of Tuscon in Pima County AZ.  He was in charge of 14 men who guarded the silver mine from robbers.  While there he happened on a copy of William H. Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico placed there by the mine’s owner Col. Samuel Colt, of revolver-fame. Ayers devoured the book repeatedly and began his life-long insatiable interest in Native American literature, manuscripts, and culture.  He became an American business magnate, who is “best remembered for the endowments of his substantial collections of books and original manuscripts from Native American and colonial-era history and ethnology, which were donated to the Newberry Library and Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.”  [ Wikipedia ]   (Editors Note: Ayers passion for understanding and preserving Native American culture continues into the 21st Century  through the legacy of his estate now bequeathed to Newberry Library, Field Museum and related archieves.)

One hundred years after MacNeil make the trip and completed the piece, Joe Di Gregorio, (Gallup businessman and grocer), stepped in to rescue the Manuelito statue.  It was badly needing repair and being stored in a warehouse going up for sale.   Leslie Linchicum of the Albuquerque Journal relays this account in her March 2010 story:

“Longtime Gallup grocer Joe Di Gregorio and his wife, Christine, own the statue. They took custody after the building’s owner, in negotiations to sell to an out-of state buyer in 1983, turned to Di Gregorio and whispered, “Don’t let the bastards take the Indian.” Di Gregorio didn’t. He agreed to take custody of Manuelito and promised to keep him in Gallup.” [“Navajo Leader Stands Tall” Albuquerque Journal, March 11, 2010]

Now 116 years after MacNeil’s visit, McKinley County Fine Arts Commission in Gallup, NM is restoring the nearly 9 foot fragile artwork that MacNeil built in an outdoor tent.  “Carolyn Milligan, chairwoman of the … Commission, has estimated that it will cost $25,000 to $38,000 to restore the sculpture, which has deteriorated from a hundred years of rail yard soot, showers with a fire hose and a well-meaning but inept repainting.” 

Milligan continues, “The 1,000-pound piece is fragile, …. Wherever it stands, she said, it will probably attract crowds.”  “It’s really quite a commanding piece,” Milligan said. “And it’s for the people.”

BEST WORDS OF THE DAY: “Don’t let the bastards take the Indian.” MacNeil and Manuelito would probably smile to hear those words.  While virtually all of the ‘staff plaster’ sculptures of the World Fairs have crumbled to dust, Manuelito still stands tall. 

After all, he does belong to the people, centuries of people, both Native and otherwise. 

THAT’s WHY I BELIEVE THAT: MacNeil’s embrace of Native American themes in his sculpting from 1895-1905 still offers us lessons in culture, anthropology and life values for the 21st Century.

MORE HISTORY:

1.) For further irony read my previous stories of  the making of Hermon MacNeil’s 1895 sculpture representing Chief Manuelito of the Navajo or read history of this Chief of the Navajo starting here.

2.) William Wroth’s “Long Walk” to Bosque Redondo  also provides poignant insight into this period of the United States management of Native American peoples and the life of Chief Manuelito who was part of that “Long Walk” and signed the treaty of 1868 that sought to restore Navajo lands after the disastrous interventions of the US government.

3.) “The Long Walk”  A Ten (10) Part video story of the Navajo “Fearing Time” accounting atrocities against the Navajo people from 1863 to 1868.  Researched and produced with support of the George S. and Delores Dore’ Eccles Foundation and the Pacific Mountain Network.   Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 Part 9Part 10.

4.)  “The Long Walk”   For a Navajo perspective view this video by Nanebah, whose great-great grandmother survived “The Long Walk”.

5.) “300 Miles – Or Long Walk Of The Navajo – Richard Stepp”  For a musical tribute with an ‘American Indian Movement’ perspective.

6.) Leslie Linthicum, staff writer for the Albuquerque Journal,  gives a delightful article, “Navajo Leader Stands Tall”.   It offers historical irony from our 21st Century on attitudes toward Native American culture  through her story of the ‘management’ and ‘preservation’ of MacNeil’s iconic statue of Chief Manuelito.

Related posts:

  1. 1901 Pan-American Exposition – Buffalo, New York ~~ “The Rainbow City” (10.3)
  2. MacNeil Sculpture “Meets Me in St. Louis” (20)
  3. Expositions and World’s Fairs ~ Hermon A. MacNeil (15.6)
  4. MacNeil at the 1893 Columbian Exposition ~ ~ ~ THE CHICAGO YEARS ~ ~ (10.8)
  5. https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2011/03/26/1904-louisiana-purchase-exposition-saint-louis-worlds-fair/

 

A MacNeil "Sun Vow" sculpture housed in the Founder's gallery of the Reading Public Museum in Reading, PA

We were recently contacted by John Graydon Smith, CEO of the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania, that a copy of MacNeil’s “Sun Vow” is exhibited there in the museum.

Follow-up contact from Ashley J. Hamilton, Director of Collections, tells us that the piece can be seen in the Founder’s Gallery in the center of the second floor.  A map to the RPM is provide below:

The Director also graciously sent photos and a bit of  history. This “Sun Vow” came to the museum in 1929 as part of the American Art collection but is displayed more prominently in the Founder’s Gallery on the 2nd floor.

A hot link to the RPM’s American Gallery has been added to this web-site’s list of “Museums: with MacNeil Art” in the right-hand column.  A photo of James Earle Fraser’s “End of the Trail” is displayed there.  [ Reading Public Museum, Reading PA; “Sun Vow” ]  MacNeil and Fraser both married accomplished sculptors — Carol Brooks MacNeil and Laura Gardin Fraser.   The two men, along with their wives,  were colleagues throughout their careers.   Both men have massive bas relief friezes, 100 feet long, that are prominent on the Missouri State Capitol Building.

Second perspective on the "Sun Vow"


The “Sun Vow” is certainly Hermon MacNeil’s most renowned piece of work.  It is as endearing now as it was a century ago.  Lorado Taft, often called the Dean of American Sculpture, wrote in 1904:

No one grudges the young artist the honors which this work has brought him: a silver medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and a gold medal at the Pan-American [Buffalo 1901]. Even were his career to be cut short today, this group, like Stewardson’s “Bather” or Donoghue’s “Young Sophocles,” is good enough and important enough to insure its author a permanent place in the history of American Art.  [SOURCE: Lorado Taft, The History of American Sculpture, p 444. ]

Thank you, for your courtesy John Smith and Ashley Hamilton. We have added your “Sun Vow” to our virtual gallery of Hermon A. MacNeil’s works.

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