A Century Later, Dallin’s Hancock Still Stands

Although most frequently associated with Native American artworks, Dallin did a variety of patriotic sculptures as well.  One such work was a statue of General Winfield Scott Hancock who stands as part of the Pennsylvania Memorial in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The monument was erected to memorialize The Battle of Gettysburg on its 50th anniversary.  General Winfield S. Hancock  was completed in 1913, three years after the dedication of the memorial in 1910.   One hundred fifty years later, we are still remembering the battle that was the turning point in the War Between the States.   In July 1913 over 50,000 Union AND Confederate veterans joined to celebrate the 50th anniversary when the statuary was placed.  (Source:  NPS, http://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm, accessed 8/6/13).    I am sure that in 2013 the number was at least four times that many.

The Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg includes several other monumental statues of famous Generals and political figures.  There are some gorgeous photos here which for copyright reasons, I cannot do more than link to.  Be sure to check out the album of the memorial itself.  It is quite impressive.  For closeups of Hancock and other aspects of the memorial, click here.  Hard to believe that it has been one hundred years since the statue of General Hancock was created by Dallin.  You can read more about General Hancock here.  He had a rather interesting military career.

I have traveled all over the United States and it never feels to tickle me a bit to see a Dallin somewhere unexpected.  Since he lived the last 44 years of his life where I grew up and lived the first 40 of mine (pretty much, college excepted), it’s like finding a little piece of home or a long-lost friend that I was not expecting to find.  So, if in your travels you happen to find yourself at Gettysburg this year, make sure you note General Winfield S. Hancock.  Tell him “hi” for me.


Merion Cricket Club Medal (1914)

The 2013 U.S. Golf Open ended Sunday. but hearing the name Merion Golf Club reminded me about the Merion Cricket Club Medal that Dallin crafted.  The Merion Cricket Club and the Golf Club were one and the same until 1941 when the Golf Club split off to become its own entity.

Awarded at the National Archery Association Championships in 1914.

Merion Cricket Club Medal, 1914. Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum, Arlington, Mass. Photo: Christine Sharbrough.

Why would archery medals be pertinent to the discussion of cricket and golf?  Because the National Archery Association (NAA) held their 1914 National Championships at the Merion Cricket Club.  Due to the increased interest in Pennsylvania for archery and the ease of access via the railroad, the Club issued an invitation to the NAA to hold it there and they accepted.  Pennsylvania had the honor of having the first archery club, the United Bowmen of Philadelphia, started in the U.S. in 1828.

The figure on this medal models the appropriate stance as noted in The Archer’s Manual, “While preparing to shoot, the archer stands with his left side towards the mark, his heels six or seven inches apart, his body perfectly erect, and his head inclining a little downward toward the breast…the left arm is straight and the hand…grasping the bow at the handle…raises it to a vertical position…nearly to the height of the ear…the thumb is not used in pulling the bow string, but the first three fingers and if the archer can draw his bow with two fingers it is still better…”

Interesting to note that the Merion Cricket Club Medal is the only known medal by Dallin to indicate the place where the championship was held.

Source information:  The Archer’s Manual, Philadelphia:  R.H. Hobson, 1830; Elmer, Robert P., American Archery, A Vade Mecum of the Art of Shooting with the Long Bow, National Archery Association, 1917, p. 47-63.


Homage to Marshall Foch Commemorative Medal

The history of commemorative coins and medals stretches back to the imperial coins of Ancient Rome.  In this next series of blog posts, I will explore the medals and coins made by Cyrus E. Dallin.  Who were the people are behind the names?  What were the purposes of these medals/coins and my interpretations of what they mean from an art historical perspective.  Because this is a blog and not a dissertation, I will try to keep the tone as light as I can.  If you are interested in more information, please feel free to contact me.

Homage to Marshall Foch 1921

Homage to Marshall Foch 1921

It wasn’t until the Italian Renaissance that the custom of presenting metallic objets’d’art to military commanders who had served the Republic well was instituted.  Thus commemorative medals of military heroes were born.[1]

“Homage to Marshall Foch” was a collaborative effort between two Massachusetts Normal Art School (MNAS) colleagues, professors, and artists:  Cyrus E. Dallin and Raymond A. Porter.  Porter designed the front of the medal depicting a portrait relief of Marshall Ferdinand Foch in profile view in his military uniform and Dallin designed the reverse side that was an allegorical representation of the Allied forces of France and America in World War I.  This was but one of several collaborations between the two colleagues.  Porter and Dallin also collaborated on the MNAS Honor Medal to be discussed in a later post.

The design of Porter’s profile relief portrait of Marshall Ferdinand Foch hearkens back to the Italian Renaissance and Pisanello who popularized it throughout Italy,[2] however, it was the imperial coins featuring the faces of Roman emperors where the tradition began.  Imperial Roman coins regularly featured the heads of emperors, one of the first being Julius Caesar.  The purpose was to disseminate the image of the emperor around the Roman Empire.  Prior to this, only gods and goddesses had the honor of depiction on coins.

By the time of the Renaissance. renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman art drove artists such as Pisanello to recreate the profile portraiture so common in Roman imperial coins into medals and paintings that “appropriated the prestige of both ancient and modern emperors…[and] afforded an almost tangible manifestation of their own power, grace and élan.”[3]  To be memorialized in metal rendered the subject immortal, a god for eternity.

Dallin’s contribution to this commemorative medal was of a more allegorical nature.  The reverse side shows two female figures in classical dress holding a laurel wreath between them with the letters FOCH embossed in the center.  Centered above the figures are the words “IN GRATEFUL SALUTATION,” below, the date “Nov. 14, 1921” is embossed.  To the right under the feet of the figure on the right is Dallin’s signature “CE Dallin.”

At first glance, it would seem to be an odd choice to have two women on a coin for an esteemed military figure, however, if one takes the time to unlock the pictures, a story emerges.

The two women garbed in classical dress fill the space while mirroring each other’s poses.  Both hold the laurel wreath, a classic symbol of victory, alluding to the alliance of France and the United States.  The symbolism of the laurel wreath dates back to Ancient Greece where the victors of the Olympic Games were awarded laurel wreaths to wear on their heads like crowns.[4] The name FOCH is embossed in the center of the wreath symbolizing his victory.

There is an interesting juxtaposition of the clothing of the figures.  The figure on the left, dressed in a classic French peasant hat and more Grecian classical dress with crossbands and peplos holds a shield with the thirteen stripes of the American flag.  This suggests that the alliance between France and the United States is so strong that one will carry the national flag of the other on to victory.

The figure on the right is a complex mystery and where Dallin truly shines in his intelligence and artistic creativity.  She has one breast bared in a nod to the image of victory in Eugene Delacroix’ painting “Liberty Leading the People” (1830).  This was and continues to be a famous French painting and all that saw it would recognize Dallin’s attribution to Delacroix.

The figure’s hair, however, is braided like the aboriginal people of America.  Dallin felt that the Native Americans deserved to be led to liberty and although not relevant to his World War I allegory, gives an interesting message to his own cause of aiding the Native Americans.  In addition, the shield that the right figure is holding is not the flag of the United States, but the flag of Massachusetts where this award was given.  Could it also be a symbol of the Native American tribes going into battle and emerging victorious over the U.S. at last?  Perhaps aligning themselves with France?  They did visit France with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  Perhaps they received better treatment?  Perhaps they perceived that they did?

Foch did visit Boston and was allegedly presented with his medal on 14 November 1921.  Although the Boston papers covered the coming of the event, the day of it, they were strangely quiet.  However, there was a small mention in another newspaper outside of Massachusetts that he was visiting Boston on that day.

I hope that this has presented Dallin in a new light and if nothing else, given you a bit of insight into the creation of commemorative medals and coins.  Every time I look, I see something else.  Perhaps you will too.  Visit the museum if you have a chance and see the medal up close.  It is a lovely work of art.

[1] vonReumont, Alfred.  Lorenzo De’Medici:  The Magnificent, Volume 2, p. 169.

[2] Rubin, Patricia Lee.   The Renaissance portrait:  from Donatello to Bellini. p 31.

[3] See Note 2

[4] Impelluso, Lucia; Sartarelli, Stephen, translation.  Nature and Its Symbols.  The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  (2004), p. 38.

Homage to Marshall Foch 1921

Homage to Marshall Foch 1921

Pretty Eagle and an Artist’s Experience

Life is art, or so the saying goes.  When studying any work of art, I always wonder what the artist’s inspiration was when he or she was creating it, don’t you?  Think about it.  Does one just wake up one morning and think “today I will create the bust of a Native American in a headdress and breastplate?”  Well…maybe they do…but not without either patronage or inspiration.

A bust of Pretty Eagle is up for auction in January 2013.  I have had the pleasure of seeing the original at the Springville Museum of Art in Utah.  This sculpture bust is a representation of Pretty Eagle, a Native American that Dallin met while traveling East on the train.  The braves were traveling to Washington, DC and they shared a train.  The memory stuck with Dallin and a work of art was born.  

It may seem, in 2013, that a bust of a Native American is somehow cliche or even passe – but the beauty of Dallin’s creation is in the meaning behind the work of art.  Like Cezanne’s apples, Dallin’s Native American sculptures are representative of a way of life that he experienced that disappeared during his lifetime.  Can you fathom that?  An entire culture’s way of life disappeared in one person’s lifetime.  Fortunately, we have sculptures like these to remind us of a culture that once was.  

Until next time…

Happy New Year 2013!

I have been away from the blog for awhile.  Celebrating the new year with a renewed emphasis on the analysis and discussion of Dallin works.  Look for subsequent postings about works that are quite a bit outside of the known Native American works in the not too distant future.  Of course, I welcome any and all inquiries and questions regarding Dallin at any time.

Happy New Year!


Dallin, Archery and the Olympic Games

This year the Summer Olympic Games will be held in London from July 27-August 12.  Perusing their website, I notice that archery is  one of the featured events.  You are undoubtedly aware of the fact that Dallin was a noted sculptor if you read this blog, but did you realize that he was also an avid archer and Olympic medalist?

Although long popular in England, archery was not popular in the US until the late 1870s when a post-Civil War regulation forbade Confederate soldiers from owning guns.  Former Confederate soldier,  Maurice Thompson from Georgia and his brother Will, inadvertently started the sport of American archery while using bows and arrows to hunt for food.

Throughout his lifetime, Dallin was a member of several Boston-area archery clubs.  In 1904, he participated in the Olympic Games and won a bronze medal in  in the archery team event.   In the book The 1904 Olympic Games, author Bill Mallon wrote that the archery event was of “marginal Olympic caliber,” and that it was “…actually the United States National Championship…” Although Mr. Mallon found this lamentable, it  was not an aberrant practice.  That year,  the American gymnastic championships served the same dual purpose as Olympic event and championship competition.  Mallon also bemoaned the fact that “…no foreign archers competed…”  However, in 1904 the Midwestern US was still considered a savage wilderness and in fact, many foreigners declined to participate in the games because of the location.

At the same time the Games were taking place in St. Louis, the World’s Fair was also in town.  Some written accounts claim that the Fair overshadowed the Games, but for Dallin these concurrent events allowed him to exhibit at the World’s Fair and take part in the Olympic Games simultaneously.  In addition to his bronze medal from the Games, Dallin won a gold medal at the Fair for his equestrian sculpture, Protest.  

After the St. Louis events, Dallin received commissions for several archery medals including the championship medal for the National Archery Association, the Eastern Archery Association and local Newton Archers group.  These medals can be seen at both the Springville Museum of Art in Utah as well as the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum in Massachusetts.

Indian Study, 1888 Auctioned

My all-time favorite work of art by Dallin is his early “Indian Study” from 1888.  I received an email from AskArt.com notifying me that one of these just went through auction.  I know of three (and this could be the third) of these works in existence.  I’m sure there are more – I never fail to be surprised by what appears at auction these days.

Harlowe-Powell Auction Ltd. - This is the work.  His dignified stance, the detail in his clothing and hair (hard to see in this shot) is amazing.  I like Dallin’s portrayal of the Native Americans in a general sense, but this work really speaks to me.  It shows a strength, determination, and dignity that other contemporary artists of the time (Paul Bartlett springs to mind) lack.  Compare the above work to Bartlett’s Ghost Dancer if you want to see what I mean by that.

These different portrayals by white artists were not lost on the Native Americans of the time either, I’m sure.  Perhaps it was Dallin’s experience that led  him to see the Native Americans as people and not “savages.”  Dallin interacted with the local Native American tribes when he was a child on the frontier of the Utah Territory as well as when he was a young man traveling to Boston and while he was living in the East.  The Algonquin Nation elected him as their representative to Congress.  Obviously, the community felt him a worthy representative.

Dallin was very forceful in his opinions about the poor treatment of the aboriginal inhabitants of the United States in every talk that I have ever had the pleasure of reading a transcript of.   When I look at this statue, I can hear the echoes of his words.  You really need to see this in person – the photos, like any photographic representation of art, do it no justice.

The other two I am aware of are located at the Springville Museum of Art and the Cyrus E. Dallin Museum of Art.  If you are in Utah or Massachusetts – please visit and take a look.  You’ll be glad you did.