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Daniel Chester French

one of the most productive sculptors of his time

Daniel Chester French

Daniel Chester French was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, on April 20, 1850, to Henry Flagg and Anne (Richardson) French. In 1867, the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts, where their neighbors included Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Alcott family. He entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 1867, but withdrew after two semesters to pursue a career in sculpture, an endeavor that was encouraged by Abigail May Alcott.

French completed his first scultpures in 1869, a bust of his father and a relief of his sister, Sarah Flagg French. In 1870 he spent a month as an apprentice in the studio of John Quincy Adams Ward, supplemented by evening drawing classes at the National Academy of Design, and he spent the winters of 1871 and 1872 in Boston attending anatomy lectures given by William Rimmer and taking drawing lessons from William Morris Hunt. Between 1870 and 1874, he produced 25 decorative statuettes in plaster.

French's first foray into public art came in 1873, when Concord, through the auspices of Emerson, commissioned The Minute Man to commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Concord, which was dedicated on April 19, 1875. French used the money from the commission to go to Florence, Italy, where he studied from October 1874 to November 1876. During this time he lived with the family of sculptor Preston Powers and worked in the studio of Thomas Ball.

Upon his return to the United States, French opened a studio in Washington, D.C., where his father was then serving as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. His father's influence helped him get his first government commission, a marble statue for the U.S. Post Office and Custom House in St. Louis, Missouri -- Peace and Vigilance (1876-78). He subsequently provided sculptures for the U.S. Court House and Post Office in Philadelphia and the U.S. Post Office and Subtreasury in Boston. Returning to Concord in 1878, French quickly established himself as one of the most prominent sculptors in the country. By 1888 he had established a second home and studio in New York City, and in 1897 he established a summer residence and studio (Chesterwood) in Glendale, Massachusetts.

Daniel Chester French died at Chesterwood on October 7, 1931. He was survived by his wife, Mary Adams French (whom he had married on July 7, 1888), and by their only child, Margaret French (born in Concord on August 3, 1889), and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord.

Important Works
(year of completion)

Minute Man, Old North Bridge, Concord, MA (1874)
The Minute Man
Peace and Vigilance, U.S. Post Office and Custom House, St. Louis, MO (1878)
John Harvard Monument, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (1884)
John Harvard Monument
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell, Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. (1889)
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell
Lewis Cass, National Statuary Hall, Washington, D.C. (1889)
Thomas Starr King Monument, San Francisco (1891)
Statue of the Republic, colossal centerpiece of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893)
Death and the Sculptor, a memorial for the grave of the sculptor Martin Milmore and his brothers, Forest Hills cemetery, Boston (1893)
Death and the Sculptor
Clark Memorial, Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, MA (1894)
Chapman Memorial, Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee, WI (1897)
John Boyle O'Reilly Memorial, intersection of Boylston Street and Westland Avenue, Boston (1897)
John Boyle O'Reilly Memorial
Rufus Choate Memorial, Old Suffolk County Courthouse, Boston (1898)
Angel of Peace, grave of George Robert White, Jamaica Plain, MA (1898)
Richard Morris Hunt Memorial, perimeter wall of Central Park, at 5th Avenue and 70th Street, New York City (1900)
Richard Morris Hunt Memorial
Justice, Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State, New York City (1900)
Justice
Peace, sculpture for the Admiral George Dewey Triumphal Arch and Colonnade, Madison Square, New York City (1900)
Commodore George H. Perkins Monument, New Hampshire State House, Concord (1902)
Commodre George H. Perkins Monument
DeWitt Clinton; Alexander Hamilton; and John Jay, New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building, New York City (1902)
Alma Mater, Columbia University, New York City (1903)
Bronze Doors, Boston (MA) Public Library (1904)
Four Continents, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, New York City (1904)
Memory, the Marshall Field Memorial, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago (1906)
Marshall Field Memorial
Progress of the State, six statues on entablature, Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul (1907)
Melvin Memorial, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA (1908)
Greek Epic; Lyric Poetry, and Religion, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, New York City (1908)
Samuel Spencer (first president of Southern Railway), Norfolk Southern offices, Atlanta (1909)
August Meyer Memorial, 10th and The Paseo, Kansas City, MO (1909)
Jurisprudence and Commerce, Federal Building, Cleveland, OH (1910)
Pediment, New Hampshire Historic Society Building, Concord (1911)
John Hampden, and Edward I, two attic figures, Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland, OH (1911)
Standing Lincoln, Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln (1912)
Pediment, Brooklyn Museum, New York City (1912)
Gen. William Franklin Draper
, Draper Memorial Park, Milford, MA (1912)
Lady Wisconsin, figure surmounting the dome, Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison (1914)
Brooklyn and Manhattan
, seated figures from the Manhattan Bridge, now on display at the Brooklyn (NY) Museum (1915)
The Spirit of Life, memorial to Spencer Trask, Congress Park, Saratoga, NY (1915)
Samuel Francis du Pont Memorial Fountain, Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. (1921)
Du Pont Memorial Fountain
Alfred Tredway White Memorial, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY (1921)
Russell Alger Memorial Fountain, Grand Circus Park, Detroit (1921)
Russell Alger Memorial Fountain
Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. (1922)
Lincoln, inside the Lincoln Memorial
Gale Park War Memorial & Park, Exeter, NH (1922)
Casting Bread Upon the Waters, aka George Robert White Memorial, Public Garden, Boston (1924)
James Woods, “Uncle Jimmy” Green, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS (1924)
Bust of Washington Irving and reliefs of Boabdill and Rip Van Winkle for the Washington Irving Memorial, Irvington, NY (1927)
Beneficence, Ball State University, Muncie, IN (1930)
William Henry Seward Memorial, Florida, NY (1930)

WEB SOURCES
Chesterwood chesterwood.org
The Metroplitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org

SEE ALSO
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Battle of Concord
World's Columbian Exposition
Lincoln Memorial
Washington Irving

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The Robinson Library >> Fine Arts >> Sculpture >> United States

This page was last updated on 10/06/2017.