( Originally Published 1913 )
IF background and tradition are needed for painting, how much more are they needed for sculpture! America was settled by a people entirely without sculptural tradition, for, in the early seventeenth century, British sculpture did not exist. More than that, to most of the settlers, art, in what-ever form, was an invention of the devil, to be avoided and discouraged. So it is not surprising that two centuries elapsed before the first American statue made its shy and awkward appearance.
In considering the achievements of American sculpture, we must remember that it is still an infant. That it is a lusty infant none will deny, though some may find it lacking in that grace and charm which come only with maturity.
The first man born in America who was foolhardy enough deliberately to choose sculpture as a profession was Horatio Greenough, born in 1805, of well-to-do parents, and carefully educated. It is difficult to say just what it was that turned the boy to this difficult and exacting art—an unknown art, too, so far as America was concerned. But he seems to have begun woodcarving at an early age, and to have progressed from that to chalk and on to plaster of Paris. The American national habit of whittling was perhaps responsible for the development of more than one sculptor.
At any rate, by the time he was twelve years old, Horatio Greenough had produced some portrait busts in chalk, and, after having tried unsuccessfully to learn clay-modelling from directions in an old encyclopedia, took some lessons from an artist who chanced. to be in Boston, and from a maker of tombstones, got a little insight into the method of carving marble.
These lessons, elementary as they must have been, were very valuable to the boy, and his work showed such promise that his father finally consented to his adopting this strange profession, insisting only that he first graduate from Harvard, on the ground that a college education would be of value, whatever his vocation. So he entered college at the age of six-teen, devoting all his spare time to reading works of art, to drawing and modelling, and the study of anatomy. He had also the good fortune to meet and win the friendship of Washington Allston, who advised him as to plans of study.
Immediately upon graduation, he sailed for Italy, which was, sadly enough, to be the Mecca of American sculptors for many years to come. For Italian sculpture was bound hand and foot by the traditions of classicism, to which our early sculptors soon fell captive. Greenough was no exception, and some years of study in the Italian studios rivetted the chains.
Ms first commission was given him by J. Fenimore Cooper. It -was a group called: the "Chanting Cherubs," and when it was sent home for exhibition, it awakened a tempest of the first magnitude. Puri-tan ideas were outraged at sight of the little naked bodies, the group was declared indecent, and the bitter controversy was not stilled until it was with-drawn from view. Greenough wrote of Cooper, " he saved me from despair; he employed me as I wished to be employed; and has, up to this moment, been a father to me in kindness "—a singularly interesting addition to the portrait of the great novelist, famous for his enmities rather than for his friendships.
The tragedy of Greenough's life was the fate of his great statue of Washington, of which we have already spoken. He conceived the work on a high plane, " as a majestic, god-like figure, enthroned beneath the dome of the Capitol at Washington, gilded by the filtered rays of the far-falling sunlight." Perhaps it was too high, but on its execution Greenough labored faithfully for eight years. " It is the birth of my thought," he wrote. " I have sacrificed to it the flower of my days, and the freshness of my strength; its every lineament has been moistened by the sweat of my toil and the tears of my exile would not barter away its association with my name for the proudest fortune that avarice ever dreamed."
It will be seen from the above that Greenough's epistolary style was florid and grandiose in the extreme, but no doubt there was a foundation of sincerity beneath it. A bitter disappointment awaited him. The ponderous figure reached Washington safely in 1843, and was conveyed to the Capitol, where, beneath the rotunda, its predestined pedestal awaited it. But the statue was found too large to pass the door, and when the door was widened and the great stone rolled inside, the floor settled so ominously that it was hastily withdrawn.
It does not seem to have occurred to anyone that the floor might be braced; instead, the pedestal was set up outside, facing the building, and the statue hoisted into place. It speedily became the butt of public ridicule. Once the fashion started, no one looked at it without a smile.
Greenough was in despair. " Had I been ordered to make a statue for any square or similar situation at the metropolis," he wrote, still in his inflated style, " I should have represented Washington on horse-back and in his actual dress. I would have made my subject purely a historical one. I have treated my subject poetically, and confess I would feel pain in seeing it placed in direct flagrant contrast with every-day life."
But that is exactly how it was placed, and it is the incongruity of this contrast which strikes the beholder and blinds him to the merits of the work. For Greenough has represented Washington seated in a massive armchair, naked except for a drapery over the legs and right shoulder, one hand pointing dramatically at the heavens, the other extended holding a reversed sword. It shows sincerity and faithful work, and had it been placed within the rotunda, would no doubt have been impressive and majestic. Where it stands, it is a hopeless anachronism.
This was the first colossal marble carved by an American. Fronting it on one of the buttresses of the main entrance of the Capitol, is the second, also by Greenough. It is a group called " The Rescue," and shows a pioneer saving his wife and child from being tomahawked by an Indian, while his dog watches the struggle with a strange apathy—almost with a smile. Like most of his other work, it is stilted and unconvincing; but let us remember that Greenough was the pathfinder, the trail-blazer, and as such to be honored and admired.
Greenough's fame, such as it was, was soon to be eclipsed by that of a man born in the same year, but later in development because he had a harder road to travel. Hiram Powers was born into a large and poverty-stricken family. While he was still a boy, his father removed from the sterile hills of Vermont to the almost frontier town of Cincinnati, Ohio. He seems to have had little schooling, but was put to work as soon as he was old enough to contribute something toward the family exchequer. He did all sorts of odd jobs, and soon developed an unusual talent, that of modelling faces.
Those were the halcyon days of the dime museum, and there was one at Cincinnati. Its proprietor chanced to hear of the boy's gift for modelling, and offered him employment as a modeller of wax figures. Of course Powers accepted, for this was work after his own heart, and he succeeded not only in producing some figures which resembled definite human beings, but "breathed the breath of life into them" by means of clock-work devices, which enabled them to move their heads and arms in a manner sufficiently jerky, but at the same time astonishing to the simple people who visited the museum to behold its wonders.
Emboldened by this success, the young genius produced an "Inferno," or " Chamber of Horrors," which, when completed, was an immense success—too immense, indeed, for it had to be closed because of the fearful impression it made upon the ladies, who fainted in their escorts' arms whenever they gazed upon its terrors. One is inclined to suspect that the ladies might have withstood the horrors of the sight, but for a desire to prove their extreme sensibility. Fainting was more fashionable eighty years ago than it is to-day.
Powers soon developed from this work a talent for catching likenesses, and, searching for a wider field, proceeded finally to Washington, where he modelled busts in wax of Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, John Marshall, and other celebrities of the period. From wax, he naturally wished to graduate into marble, and in 1837, left America for Italy, never to return. Greenough, then laboring away at his Washington, assisted him in various ways; and Hawthorne met him in Italy and was much impressed by him, as his " Italian Note-Book " shows.
In 1843, he completed the figure which was destined to make him famous, the " Greek Slave." The statue was supposed to represent a maiden captured by the Turks, " stripped and manacled and offered for sale in the market place," and so had a sentimental appeal which went straight to the heart of a sentimental people, and overcame any antagonism which her nudity might have produced. It inspired Elizabeth Barrett Browning to a not very noteworthy sonnet, clergymen gave it certificates of character, so to speak, and " it made a sensation wherever shown, and was fondly believed to be the greatest work of sculpture known to history." Let us say at once that it is an engaging and creditable piece of work, and worthy, in the main, of the enthusiasm which it excited.
The " Greek Slave " was only the beginning. Powers turned out one statue after another with considerable rapidity, but his reputation rests mainly to-day on his portrait busts of men. It is characteristic of artists that the things they do best and easiest they value least, and this was so with Powers. His portrait busts were, in a sense, mere pot-boilers; he lavished himself upon his ideal figures. But these are now ranked as unimaginative and commonplace.
Third among our early sculptors of importance was Thomas Crawford, born eight years later than Greenough and Powers, and preceding the latter to the grave by many years, yet leaving behind him a mass of work which, if it shows no great imagination,. displays considerable poetic refinement. Driven to Italy because it was only there that marble work could be well and economically done, he lived there for some years, earning a bare subsistence by the production of second-rate portrait busts and copies of antique statuary. Then he attracted the attention of Charles Sumner, and with his help, was enabled, in 1839, to produce his first important work, the " Orpheus," now in the Boston Museum. Many others followed, but they were of that ideal and sentimental type, very foreign to modern taste.
Crawford was an indefatigable workman, and few American museums are without one or more examples of his product. In the public square at Richmond, Virginia, stands one of his most important monuments, crowned by an astonishing equestrian figure of Washington, which he himself executed. Two of the subordinate statues are also his—those of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson—and represent the best work he ever did.
Another of his productions is the great figure of Freedom which crowns the dome of the Capitol at Washington, not unworthily. By a fortunate chance, which the sculptor could hardly have foreseen, the bulky and roughly modelled figure gains airiness and majesty from its lofty position, where its sickly-sweet countenance and clumsy adornment are refined by distance. It has become, in a way, a national ideal, a part of the Republic.
The success of these three men and the immense reputation which they attained naturally attracted others to a profession whose rewards were so exalted. The first to achieve anything like an enduring reputation was Henry Kirke Brown, born in Massachusetts in 1814. He early displayed some talent for portrait painting, and went to Boston to study under Chester Harding. Chance led him to model the head of a friend, and the result was so interesting that he then and there renounced painting for sculpture.
Naturally, his eyes turned to Italy, but he had no money to take him there, so perforce remained at home, getting such instruction as he could. In 1837, at the age of twenty-three, he produced his first marble bust, and within the next four years, had carved at least forty more, besides four or five figures. From all this work, he managed to save the money needed for the trip to Italy, but after four years in the Italian studios, he sailed for home again. On July 4, 1856, the second equestrian statue to be set up in the United States was unveiled in Union Square, New York City, and gave Brown a reputation which still endures.
It is a statue of Washington, and, in some amazing fashion, Brown succeeded in producing a work of art, which, in some respects, has never been surpassed in America, and which has served as a pattern and guide to other sculptors from that day to this. It is a sincere, honest and dignified embodiment of the First American. Brown did some notable work after that, but none of it possesses the high inspiration which produced the noble and commanding figure which dominates Union Square.
We have said that it was the second equestrian statue produced in America. The first may still be seen by all who, on entering or leaving the White House, glance across the street at the public square beyond. One glance is certain to be followed by ethers, for that statue is not only the first, it is the most amazing ever set up in a public place in this country. It has divided with Greenough's " Washing-ton," at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the horrors of being a national joke. Its author was Clarke Mills, and its inception is probably unparalleled in the history of sculpture.
Mills was born in New York State in 1815, lost his father while still a child, and at the age of thirteen was driven by harsh treatment to run away from the uncle with whom he had made his home. Thence-forward he supported himself in any way he could---as farm-hand, teamster, canal-hand, post-cutter, and finally as cabinet maker. Ile drifted about the country; to New Orleans, and finally to Charleston, South Carolina, where he learned to do stucco work, and whiled away his leisure hours by modelling busts in clay.
With Yankee ingenuity, he invented a process of taking a cast from the living face, and this simple method of getting a likeness enabled him to turn out busts so rapidly and cheaply that he had all the work he could do. He was, of course, anxious to try his hand at marble, and procuring a block of native Carolina stone, hewed out, with infinite labor, a bust of that South Carolina idol, John C. Calhoun. It was the best bust ever made of that celebrated statesman, and was the beginning of Mills's good fortune, and of the: sequence of events which resulted in his statue of the hero of New Orleans.
For his Calhoun attracted much attention and se-cured him other commissions—among them, one for the busts of Webster and Crittenden. To get these, he was forced to go to Washington, and there he met the Hon. Cave Johnson, President of the Jackson Monument Commission, which had got together the funds for an equestrian statue of that old hero. Johnson suggested to Mills that he submit a design for this statue. As Mills had never seen either General Jack-son or an equestrian statue, and had only the vaguest idea of what either was like, he naturally felt some doubt of his ability to execute such a work ; but John-son pointed out that this was only modesty, and so Mills finally evolved a design, which the commission accepted.
Then he went to work on his model, and executed it on an entirely new principle, which was to secure a balanced figure by bringing the hind legs of the horse under the centre of its body. Congress donated for the bronze of the statue the British cannon which Jackson had captured at New Orleans, and after many trials and disheartening failures, it was finally east, hoisted into place, and dedicated on the eighth of January, 1853.
The whole country gazed at it in wonder and admiration, for surely never had another work of art so unique and original been unveiled in any land. Mills had balanced his horse adroitly on his hind legs, and represented the rider as clinging calmly to this perilous perch and doffing his chapeau to the admiring multitude. A delighted Congress added $20,000 to the price already paid, while New Orleans ordered a replica at an even higher figure. Absurd as the statue is, it yet must command from us a certain respect for the enthusiast who designed it. Remember, he had never seen an equestrian statue, because there was none in the country for him to see; he had no notion of dignified sculptural treatment; but he did what he could, as well as he was able.
Mills was the last of the primitives, for following him came Erasmus D. Palmer and Thomas Ball, the two men who, more than any others, shaped the course and guided the development of American sculpture.
Erasmus Palmer was born in 1817, and followed the trade of a carpenter. But in the odd moments of 1845, he made a cameo portrait of his wife, which was a rather unusual likeness. Encouraged by this success, he practised further, and ended by abandoning his saws and planes to devote his whole time to carving portraits. But the constant strain so weakened his eyes, that he was about to return to carpentering, when a friend suggested that he try his hand at modelling in clay. The result was the " Infant Ceres," modelled from one of his own children, which, reproduced in marble, created a sensation at the exhibitions in 1850.
From that moment, Palmer's career was steadily upwards. It culminated eight years later in his delightful figure, the " White Captive," reminiscent in a way of the " Greek Slave," but a better work of art, and one which stands among the most charming achievements of American sculpture. One of its wonders, too—wonder that an untrained hand and an unschooled brain should have been able to create a work of art at once so tender and so firm. Following it came some admirable portrait busts; and finally, in 1862, his "Peace in Bondage." No doubt the sculptor's beautiful and adequate conception sprang from the tragic period which gave it birth; for " Peace in Bondage " shows a winged female figure leaning wearily against a tree-trunk, and gazing hopelessly into space. It is carved in high relief, with great skill and insight. In fact, nothing finer had been produced in America.
With this work, American art may be said to have found itself. It not only raised the standard of achievement, but it put an end at once and forever to the idea that study in Italy was necessary to artistic success. For only once did Palmer visit Europe, and then it was to stay but a short time. In fact, Italy was artistic poison for many men; its art lacked originality and vigor, and it sapped the native strength of many of the Americans who worked in its studios.
Thomas Ball was an exception to this; for, in spite of many years abroad, he remained always characteristically American. He comes next to Palmer in strength and rightness of achievement; his work, like his life, was earnest and noble.
Thomas Ball's father was a house and sign painter of Boston, with some artistic skill, which he passed on to his son. That was the boy's only inheritance,. and when his father died, he undertook the support of the family, first as a boy-of-all-work in the New England Museum, and then as a cameo-cutter. From that he graduated naturally to engraving, miniature painting, and finally to portraiture.
His first attempt at modelling resulted in a bust of Jenny Lind, done entirely from photographs, which had a wide vogue, for the Swedish Nightingale was then at the height of her popularity. Other more ambitious work followed, and finally, at the age of thirty-five, he was able to realize his ambition t& study in the studios of Florence. But he found the Italian environment less inspiring than he bad hoped, and two years later he was back in Boston, working on an equestrian statue of Washington—the first equestrian group in New England and the fourth in the United States. He built his plaster model with his own hands, and was three years getting it ready. The result was a work which ranks among the first equestrian statues of the country. Other works of importance followed, among them the well-known emancipation group showing Lincoln blessing a kneeling slave, which was unveiled at Washington in 1875.
The years touched Ball lightly, and at seventy years of age, he undertook his greatest work, an elaborate Washington monument for the town of Methuan, Massachusetts. The principal figure, a gigantic Washington in bronze, was exhibited at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, and received the highest honors of the exposition—a distinction it richly merited by its nobility of a conception and execution. Thomas Ball, indeed, set a new standard in public statuary, and one which no successor has dared to disregard. The far-reaching effects of his influence and that of Erasmus Palmer can hardly be over-estimated.
One of the most engaging and versatile personalities in the whole range of American art was that of William Wetmore Story. Born at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1819, graduated at Harvard, admitted to the bar, the author of a volume of graceful verse and of a valuable life of his father, Chief Justice Story, he yet, in 1851, put all this work aside, adopted sculpture as a profession, and, proceeding to Rome, opened a studio there.
It was from the first an extraordinary studio, attracting the most brilliant people of Rome in literature as well as art; and if Story did not quite practise' the perfection he was somewhat fond of preaching, it was because of his very versatility, which absorbed his talent in so many directions that it could not be concentrated in any. His imagination outran his achievement, and the most famous of his works, his statue of Cleopatra, owes its reputation not so much to its own merit, which is far from overwhelming, as to the ecstatic description of it which Nathaniel Hawthorne included in " The Marble Faun." A master of literature is not necessarily an inspired critic of art, and it is to be suspected that Hawthorne permitted some of the fire of his imagination to play about the cold and uninspired marble.
" Cleopatra " marked Story's culmination. He fell away from it year by year, producing a long line of figures whose only impressive features were the names he gave them-" The Libyan Sibyl," " Semi-ramis," " Salome," " Medea," and so on. However, he did much to increase the popularity of sculpture, for the stories he attempted to tell in stone by means of heavy-browed, frowning women in classic costume and with classic names, were exactly suited to the child-like intelligence of his public. He gave art, too —as William Penn gave the Quakers—a sort of social sanction because of his own social position. If the son of Chief Justice Story could turn sculptor, surely that profession was not so irregular, after all !
Another sculptor who shared with Story the ad miration of the public was Randolph Rogers, born at Waterloo, New York, in 1825. Until the age of twenty-three such modelling as he did was done in the spare moments of a business life; but when he gave an exhibition of the results of this labor, his employers were so impressed that they provided the money needed to send him to Italy, where he was to spend the remainder of his life, with the exception of five years' residence in New York. Two of his earlier figures are his most famous, his " Nydia " and his " Lost Pleiad." Scores of replicas in marble of these two figures were made during their author's life time, and they still retain for many people a simple and pathetic charm. Nearly every one, of course, has made the acquaintance of Nydia, the blind girl, in Bulwer-Lytton's " The Last Days of Pompeii," and so gaze at Rogers's fleeing figure with eyes too sympathetic to see its faults.
Far more important is the work of William H. Rinehart, of the same age as Rogers, and resembling him somewhat in development. Born on a Maryland farm, his early years were those of the average farmer's boy, but at last some blind instinct led him to abandon farming for stonecutting, and he became assistant to a mason and stonecutter of the neighbor-hood. As soon as he had learned his trade, at the age of twenty-one, he went to Baltimore, where there was work in plenty, and where he could, at the same time, attend the night schools of the Maryland Institute. This sounds much easier than it really was. To devote the evenings to study, after ten and often twelve hours of the hardest of all manual labor, required grit and moral courage such as few possess.
He was soon trying his hand at modelling, and convinced, at last, that sculpture was his vocation, he managed, by the time he was thirty, to save enough money for a short period of study at Rome. Three years of work at Baltimore, after that, gave him some reputation, and he then returned to Rome, to spend the remainder of his life there.
If you have ever visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, you have seen, in the hall of statuary, one of Rinehart's most characteristic groups, " Latona and Her Children." The mother half seated, half lying upon the ground, gazes tenderly down at the two sleeping children, sheltered in the folds of her mantle. The whole work possesses a serene poetic charm and dignity very noteworthy ; and this and other groups are among the most beautiful that any American ever turned out of an Italian studio.
Rinehart was one of the last American disciples of the classic -school. Certainly no art could have been more opposed to his than the frank and vivid realism of his immediate successor, John Rogers. Born in. Salem, Massachusetts, the son of a family of merchants, he was educated in the common schools, worked for a time in a store, and then entered a machine shop as an apprentice, working up through all the grades, until finally he was in charge of a rail-road repair shop.
During all these years he had no suspicion of artistic talent within himself, but one day in Boston he happened to see a man modelling some images in clay. In that instant, the artist instinct clutched him, and procuring some clay and modelling tools, he spent all his leisure in practice. This leisure was scant enough, for his trade kept him employed fourteen hours of every day ; but at the age of-twenty-nine he was able to secure an eight months' vacation, which he spent in Europe, principally at Paris and Rome. He returned to America greatly discouraged, for the only thing he saw in Europe was classic sculpture, with which he had no sympathy and which, indeed, he could not understand.
So, abandoning all thought of making sculpture a profession, he went to work as a draughtsman in. Chicago, amusing himself, at odd hours, by the construction of a group of small figures, which he called " The Checker Players." It was exhibited at a charity fair, and awakened so much interest and de-light that Rogers burned his bridges behind him by resigning his position, and proceeded to New York, and rented a studio, determined to be a sculptor in. spite of classicism.
The outbreak of the Civil War furnished him a host of subjects which he treated with a patriotic fervor that went straight to the heart of an over-wrought people. " The Returned Volunteer," " The Picket-Guard," " The Sharp-shooters," " The Camp-fire," " One More Shot," and many others, came from his studio in rapid succession. They were all thoroughly American, and some were even admirably sculptural. They, at least, stood for an original idea, and deserve better treatment than the silent contempt which, in these days, is about all that has been accorded them.
At about this time, there came upon the scene the first and only really famous woman sculptor in the history of American art, Harriet Homer. She had had an unusual childhood, and had grown into an original and engaging woman. Born in 1830, at Watertown, Massachusetts, the daughter of a physician, she inherited her mother's delicate constitution, and her father encouraged her in an outdoor life of physical exercise such as only boys, at that time, were accustomed to. She became expert in.
rowing, riding, skating and shooting, developed great 'endurance, filled her room with snakes and insects and birds' nests, and in a clay pit at the end of her father's garden modelled rude figures of animals.
A few years of schooling followed this wild girl-hood; then she was sent to Boston to study drawing and modelling; but finding that no woman would be admitted to the Boston Medical School, whose course in anatomy she was anxious to take, she went to St. Louis and entered the medical college there. Finally, in 1852, accompanied by her father and Charlotte Cushman, she set sail for Italy.
She remained there for eight years, turning out a number of very creditable figures, which, if not great, at least possess some measure of grace and charm. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his " Italian Note-Book," has left a vivid impression of Miss Hosmer, whose eccentricity of dress and manner impressed him deeply, as did also the work which she showed him. But she never reached any high development.
Which brings us to the present of American art, for the sculptors we have yet to consider are either yet alive or have died so recently that they belong to the present rather than the past.
The first and one of the most important of these is John Quincy Adams Ward, born in 1830 on an Ohio farm. An accident showed the possession of latent talent, for some good pottery clay happened to be discovered on his father's farm, and his guardian angel inspired the boy to take a handful of it and model the grotesque countenance of a negro servant.
The result was striking, and no doubt he felt within himself some of the stirrings of genius, but not until 1849 did he realize his vocation. Then, while on a visit to a sister in Brooklyn, he happened to pass the open door of H. K. Brown's studio. The glimpse he caught of the scene within fascinated him; he returned again and again, and ended by entering the studio as a pupil.
He could have found no better master, and for seven years he remained there, assisting Brown in every detail of his work. His first group, modelled after long study, was his " Indian Hunter," now placed in Central Park, New York—a group instinct with vitality—a glimpse of a forgotten past, evoked with the skill of a master. It was the first of a long line of statues, many of them portraits of contemporaries, a field in which Ward has no superior. It is perhaps the highest tribute which could be paid the man to say that, with all his great production, he has never done bad work, never produced anything trifling or unworthy.
A fellow student with Ward in Henry Kirke Brown's studio was Larkin G. Meade, the first indication of whose talent was a unique one. One winter morning, about the middle of the century, the good people of Brattleboro, Vermont, were astonished to find set up in one of the public squares of the town a colossal snow image, in the form of a majestic angel—crude, no doubt, in execution, but singularly effective. Inquiry developed that it was the work. of young Meade, then only fifteen years of age. The incident got into the newspapers, magnified considerably, and attracted the attention of old Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati, who, on more than one occasion, had himself appeared as angel to struggling artists.
It was so in this case. Mr. Longworth wrote to Brattleboro, making some inquiries as to the essential truth of the story, and having satisfied himself on that point, offered to help the boy to get an artistic education. The offer was accepted, and young Meade was placed in Brown's studio, going afterwards to Italy. While there, he heard of the assassination of President Lincoln, and prepared an elaborate design in plaster for a national monument to the martyred President's memory. As soon as this was completed, he started for home with it, arriving at precisely the right moment. The rage for monument building was sweeping up and down the land. Councils, legislatures, all sorts of public and private bodies, were making appropriations to commemorate some particular hero of the Civil War, which was just ended; Meade's design appealed to the popular imagination, and the commission was awarded him.
The monument, which was destined to cost a quarter of a million dollars, was by far the most important that had ever been erected in this country, and the inexperienced young sculptor sailed back to Italy to begin work. Not until 1874 was it sufficiently completed to dedicate, and the last group of statuary was not put in place until ten years later. All this time, the sculptor had spent quietly in his studio at Florence, quite apart from the world of progress or of new ideas in art, and long before his work was finished, public taste had outgrown it and found it uninspired and commonplace.
Much more important to American art is the work of Olin Levi Warner, the son of an itinerant Methodist preacher, whose wanderings prevented the boy getting any regular schooling. During his childhood, he had shown considerable talent for carving statuettes in chalk, and he finally decided to immortalize his father by carving a portrait bust of him. For a stone, he " set " a barrel of plaster in one solid mass and then, breaking off the staves, began hacking away at it with such poor implements as he could command. It was a well-nigh endless task, but " it's dogged that does it," and the boy worked doggedly away until the bust was completed. It was considered such a success that young Warner, convinced of his vocation, set to work to earn enough money to go abroad. For six years he worked as a telegrapher, and it was not until 1869, when he was twenty-five years old, that he had saved the money needed.
Three years later he returned to New York, and opened a studio, but met with a reception so dismal and indifferent that, after a four years' desperate struggle, he was forced to abandon the fight and return to his father's farm. Anxious for any employment, he applied to Henry Plant, President of the Southern Express Company, for work. Mr. Plant was interested, and instead of offering him a job as messenger or teamster, gave him a commission for two portrait busts.
It was the turning point in Warner's career, for the busts he produced were of a craftsmanship so delicate and beautiful that they at once established his position among his fellow-sculptors, though years elapsed before he received any wide public recognition. The truth is that he was too great and sincere an artist to cater to a public taste which he had himself outgrown; so that, until quite recently, he has remained a sculptor's sculptor. His untimely death, in 1896, from the effects of a fall while riding in Central Park, brought forth a notable tribute from his fellow-craftsmen, and students of sculpture have come to recognize in him one of the most delicate and truly inspired artists in our history.
But the most powerful influence in the recent development of American sculpture has been that great artist, Augustus Saint Gaudens. Born in 1848, at Dublin, Ireland, of a French father and an Irish mother, he was brought to this country while still an infant. Perhaps this mixed ancestry explains to some degree Saint Gaudens's peculiar genius. At the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to a cameo-cutter in New York City, and worked for six years at this employment, which demands the utmost keenness of vision, delicacy of touch, and refinement of manner. His evenings he spent in studying drawing, first at Cooper Union and then, outgrowing that, at the National Academy of Design. So it happened that, at the age of twenty, when most men were just beginning their special studies, Saint Gaudens was thoroughly grounded in drawing and an expert in low relief.
Another thing he had learned; and let us pause here to lay stress upon it, for it is the thing which must be learned before any great life-work can be done. He had learned the value of systematic industry, of putting in so many hours every day at faithful work. The weak artist, whether in stone or paint or ink, always contends that he must wait for inspiration, and so excuses long periods of unproductive idleness, during which he grows weaker and weaker for lack of exercise. The great artist compels inspiration by whipping himself to his work and setting grimly about it, knowing that the " inspiration," so-called, will come. For inspiration is only seeing a thing clearly, and the one way to see it clearly is to keep the eyes and mind fixed upon it.
At the age of twenty, then, Saint Gaudens was not only a trained artist, but an industrious one. Three years in the inspiring atmosphere of Paris, and three years in Italy, followed; and finally, in 1874, he landed again at New York with such an equipment as few sculptors ever had. And seven years later he proved his mastery when his statue of Admiral Farragut was unveiled in Union Square, New York. That superb work of art made its author a national figure, and Saint Gaudens took definitely that place at the head of American sculpture which was his until his death.
Six years later Saint Gaudens's " Lincoln " was unveiled in Lincoln Park, Chicago, and was at once recognized as the greatest portrait statue in the United States. It has remained so—a masterpiece of exalted conception and dignified execution; Other statues followed, each memorable in its way; but Saint Gaudens proved himself not only the greatest but the most versatile of our sculptors by his work in other fields—by portraits in high and low relief, by ideal figures, and notably by the memorial to Robert Gould Shaw, a work distinctively American and with-out a counterpart in the annals of art. It is the spiritual quality of Saint Gaudens's work which sets it apart upon a lofty pinnacle—the largeness of the man behind it, the artist mind and the poet heart.
Saint Gaudens's death in 1907 deprived American art of one of its most commanding figures, but there are other American sculptors alive today whose work is noteworthy in a high degree. One of these is Daniel Chester French. Born of a substantial New England family, and showing no especial artistic talent in youth, one day, in his nineteenth year, he surprised his family by showing them the grotesque figure of a frog in clothes which he had carved from a turnip. Modelling tools were secured for him, and he went to work. The schooling which prepared him for his remarkable career was of the slightest. He studied for a month with J. Q. A. Ward, and for the rest, worked out his own salvation as best he could.
His first important commission came to him at the age of twenty-three—the figure of the " Minute Man " for the battle monument at Concord, Massachusetts. It was unveiled on April 19, 1875, and attracted wide attention. For here was a work of strength and originality produced by a young man without schooling or experience—produced, too, without a model, or, at least, from nothing but a large cast of the " Apollo Belvidere," which was the only model the sculptor had. But there was no hint of that famous figure under the clothes of the " Minute Man." It had been entirely concealed by the personality and vigor he had impressed upon his work.
After that Mr. French spent a year in Florence, but he returned to America at the end of that period to remain. He has grown steadily in power and certainty of touch, rising perhaps to his greatest height in his famous group, " The Angel of Death and the Young Sculptor," intended as a memorial to Martin Milmore, but touching the universal heart by its deep appeal, conveyed with a sure and admirable artistry. Mr. French's great distinction is to have created good sculpture which has touched the public heart, and to have done this with no concession to public taste.
Another sculptor who has gained a wide appreciation is Frederick MacMonnies, who for sheer audacity and dexterity of manipulation is almost without a rival. He was born in Brooklyn in 1863, his father a Scotchman who had come to New York at the age of eighteen, and his mother a niece of Benjamin West. The boy's talent revealed itself early, and was developed in the face of many difficulties. Obliged to leave school while still a child and to earn his living as a clerk in a jewelry store, he still found time to study drawing, and at the age of sixteen had the good fortune to attract the attention of Saint Gaudens, who received him as an apprentice in his studio.
No better fate could have befallen the lad, and the five years spent with Saint Gaudens gave him the best of all training in the fundamentals of his art. Some years in Paris followed, where he replenished his slender purse with such work as he could find to do, until, in 1889, his " Diana " emerged from his studio, radiant and superb. A year later came his statue of "Nathan Hale," and there was never any lack of commissions after that. " Nathan Hale " stands in City Hall Park, New York City, the very embodiment of that devoted young patriot. The artist has shown him at the supreme moment when, facing the scaffold, he uttered the memorable words which still thrill the American heart, and expression and sentiment were never more perfectly in accord. He struck the same high note with his famous fountain at Chicago Exposition, where hundreds of thousands of people suddenly discovered in this young man a national possession to be proud of.
A year later his name was again in every mouth, when the Boston Public Library refused a place to perhaps his greatest work, the dancing " Bacchante," which has since found refuge in the Metropolitan Museum at New York—a composition so original and daring that it astonishes while it delights.
Like MacMonnies, George Gray Barnard began life as a jeweller's apprentice, became an expert engraver and letterer, and finally, urged by a cease-less longing, deserted that lucrative profession for the extremely uncertain one of sculpture. A year and a half of study in Chicago brought him an order for a portrait bust of a little girl, and with the $350 he received for this, he set off for Paris. That meagre sum supported him for three years and a half—with what privation and self-denial may be imagined; but he never complained. He lived, indeed, the life of a recluse, shutting himself up in his studio with his work, emerging only at night to walk the streets of Paris, lost in dreams of ambition. That from this period of ordeal came some of the deep emotion which` marks his work cannot be doubted.
This quality, which sets Barnard apart, is well illustrated in his famous group, " The Two Natures," suggested by a line of Victor Hugo, " I feel two natures struggling within me." Two male figures are shown, heroic in size and powerfully modelled, a victor half erect bending over a prostrate foe.
Besides these men, who are, in a way, the giants of the American sculptors of to-day, there are, especially in New York, many others whose work is graceful and distinctive. Paul Wayland Bartlett, Herbert Adams, Charles Niehaus, John J. Boyle, Frank Elwell, Frederick Ruckstuhl, to mention only a few of them, are all men of originality and power, whose work is a pleasure and an inspiration, and to whose hands the future of American sculpture may safely be confided.
GREENOUGH, HORATIO. Born at Boston, September 6, 1805; graduated at Harvard, 1825; went to Italy, 1825, and made his home there, with the exception of short visits to America and France; died at Somerville, Massachusetts, December 18, 1852.
POWERS, HIRAM. Born at Woodstock, Vermont, July 29, 1805; modelled wax figures at Cincinnati, Ohio, for seven years; went to Washington, 1835, and to Florence, 1837; died there, June 27, 1873.
CRAWFORD, THOMAS. Born at New York City, March 22, 1814; went to Italy, 1834, and took up residence at Rome for the remainder of his life; afflicted with sudden blindness in 1856, and died at London, October 16, 1857.
BROWN, HENRY KIRKE. Born at Leyden, Massachusetts, February 24, 1814; studied in Italy, 1842—46; opened Brooklyn studio, 1850; died at Newburgh, New York, July 10, 1886.
MILLS, CLARKE. Born in Onondaga County, New York, December 1, 1815; died at Washington, January 12, 1883.
PALMER, ERASTUS Dow. Born at Pompey, Onondaga County, New York, April 2, 1817; opened studio in Albany, 1849; in Paris, 1873-74; died at Albany, New York, March 9, 1904.
BALL, THOMAS. Born at Charlestown, Massachusetts, June 3, 1819; practised painting, 1840—52; adopted sculpture, 1851; resided in Florence, Italy, 1865—97; opened New York studio, 1898.
STORY, WILLIAM WETMORE. Born at Salem, Massachusetts, February 19, 1819; graduated at Harvard, 1838; admitted to the bar, 1840; published a volume of poems, 1847; went to Italy, 1848, and lived at Florence until his death, October 5, 1895.
ROGERS, RANDOLPH. Born at Waterloo, New York, July 6, 1825; removed to Italy, 1855; died at Rome, January 15, 1892.
RINEHART, WILLIAM HENRY. Born in Maryland, September 13, 1825; removed to Rome, 1858, and died there, October 28, 1874.
ROGERS, JOHN. Born at Salem, Massachusetts, October 30, 1829; visited Europe, 1858—59; died, July 27, 1904.
HOSMER, HARRIET G. Born at Watertown, Massachusetts, October 9, 1830; studied in Rome, 1852—60; opened Boston studio, 1861; died at Cambridge, Massachusetts, February 21, 1908.
WARD, JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. Born at Urbana, Ohio, June 29, 1830 ; studied under H. K. Brown, 1850 -57; studio in New York City since 1861.
MEADE, LARKIN GOLDSMITH. Born at Chesterfield, New Hampshire, January 3, 1835; studied under Brown and in Florence; artist at the front for Harper's Weekly during Civil War; afterwards returned to Florence and made his home there.
WARNER, OLIN LEVI. Born at Suffield, Connecticut, April 9, 1844; studied in Paris, 1869—72; opened New York studio, 1873 ; died there, August 14, 1896.
SAINT GAUDENS, AUGUSTUS. Born at Dublin, Ire-land, March 1, 1848; came to America in infancy; learned trade of cameo cutter; studied at Paris, 1867—70; Rome, 1870—72; opened New York studio, 1872; died at Corinth, N. H., August 3, 1907.
FRENCH, DANIEL CHESTER. Born at Exeter, New Hampshire, April 20, 1850; studied in Boston and Florence; studio in Washington, 1876—78; in Boston, 1878—87; in New York since 1887.
MAcMONNIES, FREDERICK. Born at Brooklyn, New York, September 20, 1863; studied under Saint Gaudens, 1880—84; also at Paris, and has spent many of the succeeding years in France.
BARNARD, GEORGE GRAY. Born at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1863; studied at Paris, 1884—87; spent some years in New York, and then returned to France.