one of The Four Continents
at The Alexander Hamilton Custom House, Bowling Green, New York City
Daniel Chester French (April 20, 1850 - October 7, 1931), one of the most prolific and acclaimed American sculptors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is best known for his design of the monumental work, the statue of Abraham Lincoln (1920) in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.
Life and career
French was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, to Henry Flagg French (1813-1885), a lawyer, judge, Assistant US Treasury Secretary, and author of a book that described the French drain, and his wife Anne Richardson. In 1867, French moved with his family to Concord, Massachusetts, where he was a neighbor and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Alcott family. His decision to pursue sculpting was influenced by Louisa May Alcott's sister May Alcott.
French's early education included training in anatomy with William Rimmer and in drawing with William Morris Hunt. French spent a year studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also several years in Florence, Italy studying in the studio of Thomas Ball. French first earned acclaim for the Minute Man, commissioned by the town of Concord, Massachusetts, which was unveiled April 19, 1875, on the centenary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He soon established his own studio, first in Washington, DC, moving later to Boston and then to New York City. French's reputation grew with his Statue of the Republic for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago. Other memorable works by French include: the First Division Monument and the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain in Washington; John Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts; bronze doors for the Boston Public Library; and The Four Continents at the US Custom House, New York (now the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House). In addition to the Lincoln Memorial, French collaborated with architect Henry Bacon on numerous memorials around the country and on the Dupont Circle fountain in Washington, DC.
In 1893, French was a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and he was appointed a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1913. French also became a member of the National Academy of Design (1901), the American Academy of Arts and Letters (which awarded him the Gold Medal for Sculpture in 1917), the Architectural League, and the Accademia di San Luca, of Rome. He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and a co-founder of the American Academy in Rome. He was a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and was awarded a medal of honor from the Paris Exposition of 1900; he also was granted honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, and Columbia universities. He was a founding member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, serving from 1910 to 1915, including as chairman from 1912 to 1915.
In 1917, French and a colleague, H. Augustus Lukeman, designed the Pulitzer Prize gold medal presented to laureates. French designed the side of the prize with Benjamin Franklin on it, while Lukeman created the iconic design of the printing press and the wording on the award: "For disinterested and meritorious public service rendered by an American newspaper during the year....". In collaboration with Edward Clark Potter he modeled the George Washington statue, commissioned by a group that called itself "The Association of American Women for the Erection of a Statue of Washington in Paris" and unveiled in the Place d'Iena in Paris, France, in 1900; the General Grant statue in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, commissioned by the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association); and the General Joseph Hooker statue in Boston.
French was one of many sculptors who frequently employed Audrey Munson as a model. Together with Walter Leighton Clark and others, he was also one of the founders of the Berkshire Playhouse, which later became the Berkshire Theatre Festival. In 1917, Harvard's citation in conferring an honorary Master of Arts referred to his statue of Emerson when it called him "a sculptor, whose skillful hand, unlike that of the friend whom he portrayed, has not been stopped but spared to adorn our land by the creation of his art". French also taught; among his pupils was the sculptor Edith Howland.
French died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1931 at age 81 and was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.
Notable public monuments
- Minute Man (Concord) at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, (1874)
- Bust of Major General William Francis Bartlett at Memorial Hall, Harvard University, (1881)
- The John Harvard Monument, Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, (1884)
- Lewis Cass, National Statuary Hall, Washington DC, (1889)
- Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell (1889), Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
- Thomas Starr King monument San Francisco, California, (1891)
- Statue of the Republic, the colossal centerpiece of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. His 24-foot gilt-bronze reduced version made in 1918 survives in Chicago.
- John Boyle O'Reilly Memorial, intersection of Boylston Street and Westland Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts, (1897)
- Rufus Choate memorial, Old Suffolk County Court House, Boston, Massachusetts, (1898)
- Richard Morris Hunt Memorial, on the perimeter wall of Central Park, at 5th Avenue at 70th Street, opposite the Frick Collection, in New York City, (1900)
- Commodore George H. Perkins Monument at the New Hampshire State House, Concord, New Hampshire (1902)
- Alma Mater (1903), on the campus of Columbia University in New York City
- Wendell Phillips Memorial, Public Garden in Boston, Massachusetts
- The Four Continents - Asia, America, Europe, and Africa, a group of four statues outside the National Museum of the American Indian at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, Manhattan, NYC (1907)
- Casting Bread Upon the Waters - George Robert White Memorial, Public Garden in Boston, Massachusetts
- Samuel Spencer, first president of Southern Railway, located in front of Goode Building (Norfolk Southern offices) on Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia, (1909).
- August Meyer Memorial, 10th and The Paseo, Kansas City, Missouri (1909)
- Statue of General James Oglethorpe located in Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia (1910)
- Standing Lincoln at the Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln, Nebraska, (1912)
- Brooklyn and Manhattan, seated figures from the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, New York, (1915)
- Minuteman, Henry Bacon designer, Jno. Williams, Inc. (NY) founder, Danville, Illinois. (1915)
- The Spirit of Life, memorial to Spencer Trask, in Saratoga Springs, New York at Congress Park, 1915
- Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial (1914-22), executed by the Piccirilli Brothers.
- Samuel Francis du Pont Memorial Fountain, Dupont Circle, Washington DC (1921)
- Alfred Tredway White Memorial, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Henry Bacon architect (1921)
- Russell Alger Memorial Fountain, Grand Circus Park, Detroit, Michigan (1921).
- Gale Park War Memorial & Park, Exeter, New Hampshire (1922)
- Bust of Washington Irving and reliefs of Boabdil and Rip Van Winkle for the Washington Irving Memorial, Irvington, New York, (1927)
- Beneficence, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. (1930)
- William Henry Seward Memorial in Florida, New York (1930)
- Death and the Wounded Soldier aka Death and Youth, The Chapel of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire
- James Woods, "Uncle Jimmy" Green, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. (1924)
- Gen. William Franklin Draper, Draper Memorial Park, Milford, Massachusetts. (1912)
Marshall Field Memorial (1906), Chicago
Law, Prosperity, and Power
(1880-84), West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.
Daniel Chester French's The Minute Man
depicted on US Postage Stamp, 1925 Issue, 5c
- Peace and Vigilance (alternatively America at War and Peace) US Customhouse & Post Office, St. Louis, Missouri, Alfred B. Mullett architect (1876-1882)
- Pediment, New Hampshire Historic Society Building, Concord, New Hampshire, Guy Lowell, architect (1909-1911)
- Bronze doors, Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts, McKim, Mead & White architects, (1884-1904)
- Justice, Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State, NYC, James Brown Lord architect (1900)
- Four Continents, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, NYC, Cass Gilbert architect, (1904, with Adolph A. Weinman)
- Progress of the State, quadriga, Six statues on entablature, Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul, Minnesota, Cass Gilbert architect (1907)
- Jurisprudence and Commerce, Federal Building, Cleveland, Ohio, Arnold Brunner architect (1910)
- John Hampden, and Edward I, two attic figures, Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio, Lehman & Schmidt architects (1908, 1911)
- Attic Figures, pediment, Brooklyn Museum, NYC, McKim, Mead & White architects (1912)
- Lady Wisconsin, figure surmounting the dome, Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin, George B. Post architect (1914)
- Abraham Lincoln (1920), Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, Henry Bacon architect (1914-22)
- Peace, sculpture for the Admiral George Dewey Triumphal Arch and Colonnade that was built in Madison Square in Manhattan, New York City in 1900.
- DeWitt Clinton; Alexander Hamilton; and John Jay. Three statues prepared in 1902 for the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building at 65 Liberty Street. The building was declared a landmark in 1977.
- Greek Epic; Lyric Poetry, and Religion. Sculptures for the 1908 Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences building on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York.
- Power and Wisdom. Sculpture for the 1919 First World War Memorial. Since destroyed.
- Death and the Sculptor, a memorial for the grave of the sculptor Martin Milmore in the Forest Hills cemetery, Boston; this received a medal of honor at Paris, in 1900. (1893)
- Clark Memorial, Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, (1894)
- Chapman Memorial, Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (1897)
- Angel of Peace - George Robert White, Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, (1898)
- Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Often referred to as the "Black Angel". (1918)
- Memory, the Marshall Field Memorial, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Henry Bacon, architect (1906)
- Slocum Memorial, Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
- Melvin Memorial, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts, Henry Bacon, architect (1906-08)
Selected museum pieces
- The Angel of Death and the Sculptor, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
- Memory, Metropolitan Museum of Art, marble carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, 1917-19, from a bronze of 1886-87, revised in 1909.
- Mourning Victory, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
- And the Sons of God saw the Daughters of Men That They Were Fair..., For French, this was an unusually erotic sculpture depicting the verse from Genesis whereby a fallen angel seduces a mortal woman thus producing the mythical Nephilim, Corcoran Gallery of Art; Washington DC, signed and dated 1923.
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