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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lincoln Statues by Daniel Chester French

The photo above of a statue of Abraham Lincoln is a model for famed sculptor Daniel Chester French’s other Lincoln sculpture. His more famous statue of the seated Abraham Lincoln you see now at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was dedicated in 1931. This standing figure represents his earlier work on Lincoln for the state capitol of Lincoln, Nebraska, dedicated in 1909. On this Lincoln’s Birthday we pay tribute both Lincoln statues and the New England sculptor who created them.

By the turn of the 20th century, Lincoln’s memory had seasoned from the contentious days of the American Civil War when most Southerners branded him a villain and quite a few Northerners did, too, to finally become a hero and champion of American democracy and benevolence. Today he is recognized as one of our finest Presidents. At the time he made this standing figure, and the later seated Lincoln, Daniel Chester French was one of our finest sculptors.

Born in New Hampshire, French lived in Concord, Massachusetts and was taught early in his artistic career by artist May Alcott, youngest sister of author Louisa May Alcott. Mr. French is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass., along with the Alcotts, Emerson, Hawthorne, and what seems to be much of the artistic creativity of the Nineteenth Century.

French’s studio where he worked on the famous seated Lincoln, (pictured here in Washington, D.C. with a National Parks employee, poignantly an African-American, giving Abe a scrub, having climbed up there by the ladder between The Great Emancipator’s legs) is located on the other side of the state in the western Mass. town of Stockbridge. Called “Chesterwood,” Mr. French’s summer home in the 1920s, is now a museum, where models of his works can be viewed, including the standing Lincoln. Chesterwood is not open for the season until May, but have a look at this official website and plan your visit for the coming spring or summer.

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