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In A State Of Perfection: Daniel Chester French

One of America’s greatest sculptors, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was born in New Hampshire, but grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, where he came to be influenced by intellectuals such as Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. French turned to sculpting early in his life, being taught by masters such as sculptors John Q. A. Ward and William Rimmer, and painter William Morris Hunt. Through such masters French learned a variety of artistic approaches apart from professionalism in his chosen creative field.

It was Emerson, in fact, who helped French to receive the commission for Concord’s Minute Man, which earned the sculptor instant recognition and fame. The sculptor went to Italy soon after to study with Thomas Bell – known for new naturalism combined with his neoclassic heritage. On his return to the United States, French continued to impress the public with his John Rogers-style sculptures before his large monuments were displayed in his own unique style at custom houses in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

The giant statue created by French, The Republic, became an all-time favorite of the American people also around that time (“Daniel Chester French Biography,” 2006). French’s statue of Abraham Lincoln is imposing, to say the least. French made Lincoln appear as a powerful king. As a matter of fact, Lincoln’s appearance is so magnificent that he may even be compared to Jesus Christ. The only difference between the two glorious historical characters is that a viewer of the Christ’s statue would not expect the real king to appear as fearsome as Lincoln.

Lincoln’s facial expression shows that he is formidable, and that a president or king must be as stern as Lincoln to handle his job correctly. In fact, Lincoln’s expression reminds the viewer of President George W. Bush – yet another president of the United States with an aura of formidability and sternness. Perhaps this is an important reason why Lincoln’s statue is admired to this day. French has made sure that the viewer thinks about the personality of kings and presidents when Lincoln’s statue is seen. Brought to the public eye in 1893, French’s The Republic is another imposing statue.

The woman known as The Republic appears androgynous. She, too, is stern like Lincoln, although the difference between the man and the woman is obvious given that Lincoln’s fearsomeness does not reach The Republic. Moreover, the woman appears as a symbol of correctness and fairness, whereas Lincoln’s expression is too formidable to reveal him as correct and fair in all circumstances (“The Republic,” 2006). French’s Mourning Victory, brought to public view in 1915, is another androgynous figure, once again reminding the viewer of the Christ.

The facial expression of the Mourning Victory is humble, and its body is strong. Seeing that the most popular of French’s sculptures depict kings and presidents, if not states, the Mourning Victory appears as yet another symbol of the stateliness of great nations (“Mourning Victory,” 2006). How does such stateliness come into being? French’s Immortal Love (1923) reveals the love of an angel for a woman of the earth that may eventually give birth to a great nation. Both man and woman have perfect bodies.

However, the only point of contention that may arise in the mind of the viewer is that the woman is not depicted as an angel. Only men are depicted as sons of men, whereas the woman is not seen as a true daughter of man (“Immortal Love,” 2006). Such notions have given rise to sexism in the west. Perhaps, therefore, it is time for the new sculptors to change our beliefs by giving the Bible another reading.

References

Daniel Chester French Biography. (2006). BookRags. Retrieved Apr 19, 2008, fromhttp://www. bookrags. com/biography/daniel-chester-french/. Immortal Love. (2006). Monument Light Photography. Retrieved Apr 19, 2008, from http://sandstead. com/images/artists/french/immortal_love/. Mourning Victory. (2006). Douglas Reo. Retrieved Apr 19, 2008, from http://www. yeodoug. com/resources/dc_french/mourning_victory/dcfrench_mourning. ht ml. The Republic. (2006). Douglas Reo. Retrieved Apr 19, 2008, from http://www. yeodoug. com/resources/dc_french/republic/dcfrench_republic. html.

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