Saturday, August 11, 2018

Classic French Sculpture, American Style: Spotlighting the Work of Daniel Chester French (1850-1931)

Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo by Seth Arkin
I feel fairly certain that realistic, figural sculpting isn't a completely lost art.

Presuming that when work progresses on the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago's Jackson Park, a sculpture of the 44th President of the United States is commissioned, there will undoubtedly be many talented artists bidding for the opportunity to carve it. 

A few years ago, at a friend's holiday party, I met a couple responsible for creating some pretty notable sculptures in Chicago, though I can't recall their names.

Yet I consider myself an art lover, who will notice and photograph sculptures--including abstract and interpretive ones, though here am referencing likenesses of military heroes, famed citizens, etc.--across Chicago and around the world, and I really can name but a few sculptors in this regard.

And most of these--Michelangelo, Auguste Rodin, Antonio Canova, Bertel Thorvaldsen--are more noted for artistic sculptures, rather than straightforward honorary ones.

Which basically leaves Gutzon Borglum--most known for carving four presidential heads into Mount Rushmore--Lorado Taft and the subject of this post, Daniel Chester French, as the only sculptors of this ilk I can cite.

The Chicago Public Art Guide is a nice resource, and informs that Augustus Saint-Gaudens merits inclusion among the names above. The guide is oddly quite light about statues in Lincoln Park, and though the Giants in the Park website shows many of these sculptures, it seems I need to buy a book to learn the sculptors names.

Photo by Seth Arkin
All of the sculptors I've named above--including Daniel Chester French--are long-deceased, but Google reveals that the Michael Jordan statue at the United Center, plus several other notable works, were created by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany and Omni Amrany, a married couple with a shared studio. (This is not the couple I met, but the work seems similar.)

While I obviously cannot claim to be an expert on fine art sculptors of the past or present, over the years I've repeatedly heard the name Daniel Chester French and come across several of his works.

French (1850-1931)--who grew up in Concord, Massachusetts as friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Louisa May Alcott family--is probably most famed for his sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln that sits at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Throughout his long career, he also created several other sculptures that I've seen (and in many cases photographed), as well as many more I haven't personally encountered.

But there were at least three French statues I came across on a recent trip to Boston, and so I decided to put together this blog post, depicting primarily--but not only--my photos of his sculptures.

Memory, the Marshall Field Memorial, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Photo by Seth Arkin
General Joseph Hooker, Massachusetts State House, Boston. Edward Potter sculpted the horse.
Photo by Seth Arkin
DuPont Circle Fountain, Washington, DC. Photo by Seth Arkin
Alma Mater, Columbia University, New York, NY
John Harvard, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Photo by Seth Arkin.
French sculpted this with no point of reference to what John Harvard actually looked like.
The Minuteman, Concord, MA
(Subject unknown by blog author), Massachusetts State House, Boston. Photo by Seth Arkin
Wendell Phillips, Boston Public Garden
Lady Wisconsin, Wisconsin State Capitol Dome, Madison, WI
Progress of the State, Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul. Photo by Seth Arkin
Richard Morris Hunt Memorial, Central Park at 70th St., New York, NY
Roger Wolcott, Massachusetts State House, Boston. Photo by Seth Arkin
John Boyle O'Reilly Memorial, Boston
Statue of the Republic (reduced size from original at Columbian Exposition),
Jackson Park, Chicago. Photo by Seth Arkin

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