Archive for MacNeil PostCard
The MacNeil Studio no longer stands. In it’s nearly fifty years beside the East River Sound, many sculptor assistants, sculptures, and models of works were shaped in that place.
This postcard and the Christmas card of 1912, posted on December 22, 2016, show the exterior of the studio. Pictures of the inside of MacNeil’s studio are rare.
However, one word picture offers a captivating account from about 1902-1903. (Jo Davidson, Between Sittings, Dial Press: New York, 1941).
Though young, he was outgoing, naively confident, and very determined. In his autobiography he shares a fascinating encounter with Hermon MacNeil. Davidson gives a vivid description of both of MacNeil’s studios on Fifty-fifth Street and in College Point. Davidson eventually went on to become a renowned portrait sculptor of over 250 world leaders. See him below sculpting a bust of General Eisenhower nearly fifty years later. However, his initial impressions upon MacNeil were much less inspiring. Davidson recounts their meeting with understated humor:
“On my first visit to New York, I went to the Art Students League and inquired who taught the sculpture class. I was told Herman [sic] A. MacNeil. They gave me his address, the Holbein Studios over the stables on West Fifty-fifth Street. I went to call on him to see if I could get a job in his studio. He asked me whether I had ever done any modeling, and remembering Mister Broadman’s encouragement, I told him I had. MacNeil looked at me quizzically and said, ‘I have to go out for a bit.’ He handed me a blueprint, saying, “ See what you can do with this,’ and took me to a stand piled up with plasticine – the beginning of a Corinthian capital. Then Mac Neil left.”
“I had never seen a blueprint before in my life. I tried to figure it out, but it was hopeless. I looked around the studio. There were bronze statuettes of Indians; scale models of monuments; photographs of executed work; and some portrait heads. I was fascinated and impressed. I made up my mind to get a job with that man.”
“I struggled with my Corinthian capital but got nowhere. In the midst of this Mr. MacNeil returned. He looked at the sorry mess I had made of his model, shook his head and asked, ‘How much do you expect to earn in a week?’”
“I meekly suggested fifteen dollars.
He said, ‘Young man, you will never make that at sculpture.’
I asked him what he would give me, taking for granted that a job was there for me. He was taken unawares and said, ‘Six dollars a week.’ I accepted. He looked defeated and said, ‘All right, Come in Monday morning.’”
“I went home elated and told my people I had found a job in a great sculptor’s studio. Though they did not approve, I think they caught my enthusiasm; I could hardly wait for Monday morning. At the appointed time, I rang the studio bell. The door opened and Mr. MacNeil stuck his head out of the door scowling.
‘I’ve thought it over,’ he said. ‘You are not worth it.’
I followed him into the studio.
‘What am I worth?’ I asked
‘All right, I’ll take it’
He gave up. ‘All right, you go to my studio in College Point, Long Island and see Mr. [John] Gregory. Tell him you are the new studio boy.’
The ride was long and expensive, a carfare, a ferry and another carfare I arrived at the MacNeil house, which was on the Sound, in Long Island, and finally found Mr. Gregory
Mr. Gregory was rather brusque: ‘Come on, hang up your things,’ he said, and he introduced me to Henri Crenier, the master sculptor.”
“The studio was a huge barn of a place or, so it appeared to me then. It was full of work in progress. There was the ‘Fountain of Liberty’ which Mr. MacNeil was making for the coming World’s Fair in St. Louis. It consisted of colossal rampant sea-horses, cavorting over a cascade of waves, sea formations and variegated seashells. At the other end of the studio there was an immense group in clay of two Indians – an older Indian standing on his tiptoes with his arms folded across his chest, looking into the distance, the younger Indian with his left hand on the old man’s shoulder and in his right hand waving an olive branch. The title of the group was ‘The Coming of the White Man.’ There were plaster molds and sketches of details of other projects.”
I was bewildered. John Gregory woke me out of my trance and took me down to the cellar where he was working on some plaster moldings. It didn’t take him long to discover that I knew nothingbut he sensed my eagerness and was quick to give me advise and information. When I got home , I talked everybody’s ear off, but my sister Ray was the only one who listened sympathetically. She wanted to know all about it and there was so much to tell.”
STAY TUNED FOR “SO MUCH MORE TO TELL”
SOURCE: Jo Davidson, Between Sittings: An Informal Autobiography (Dial Press: New York, 1951. Pp.13-16)
A photo of the MacNeil Studio on College Point, holly sprigs and a Doll-faced Christmas bell, these things grace the face of this holiday greeting card.
The back shows an addressee and a College Point postmark for Dec 24, 1912 with a cancellation on a 1 cent George Washington postage stamp. Perhaps these cards were available to MacNeil’s students at the Pratt Institute as Seasons greetings.
A publishers mark, “F. Hettling, Pub.” is listed on the bottom front in very small print.
The addressee (Miss Jule Cox, 285 Carlton Ave, Brooklyn, New York) brings up a residence about 12 blocks from the Pratt Institute where MacNeil was an instructor for many years. (Thus our ‘student theory’ on this Christmas note. The signature is not readily decipherable (from The Deachins?). All is written in black ink with a fountain pen. — All in all, its a curious relic from a century ago.
Hermon MacNeil built his Studio building out of stones. These he gathered from the shoreline and bottom on the East River sound behind the studio. Being the son and grandson of builders, he was familiar with hand labor, construction and masonry.
The studio was bathed in natural light through skylights and featuresd a section where Carol Brooks MacNeil (Carrie) did her sculpture work as well.
The year 2016 marks the sesquicentennial of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil on February 27, 1886.
While we celebrate each February as “MacNeil Month,” this year is extra special as the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Several events during 2016 will acknowledge that here on HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com:
- The newly commissioned 2016 MacNeil Medallion will be available for sale on eBay. CLICK HERE
- Postings will continue to celebrate the life and art of Hermon A. MacNeil.
- Kisimul Castle the home of the MacNeil Chieftans from the 14th century, will be featured.
- The origins of the MacNeil Clan on the Isle of Barra in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides will be visited with photos and history .
- The webmaster’s ongoing travels and activity will be presented as his “Search for Uncle Hermon” continues as a odyssey of retirement.
- Antique “MacNeil Postcards” of some of his sculptures across the U. S. will be presented as features.
- MacNeil’s years in Paris will be revisited with photos of the newly restored Ecole de Beaux Arts where he studied and taught.
- MacNeil’s teachers in Paris will be featured with photos of their sculptures in the Musee d’Orsay in the center of Paris. This museum was built as the railroad station for the Universal Exposition of 1900 in which MacNeil and his contemporary sculptors exhibited and received prizes.
- Our recent Travels to Scotland will be featured with photos and stories.
- Our travels to France this year will be shared.
ALL in ALL, 2016 begins as a banner year for this website. SO stay tuned.
Better yet, SUBSCRIBE by clicking the button.
“The Sun Vow”, Hermon MacNeil’s earliest acclaimed work, was exhibited around the world and still can be visited in museums and galleries today. This old photo postcard was purchased recently by the editor.
“The Sun Vow” is pictured here in an early B&W Postcard by photographer Gabriel Moulin.
The likeness probably dates from the 1929 Exhibition of the National Sculpture Society at the newly completed California Palace of Legion of Honor, San Francisco.
The “Sun Vow” was also exhibited by MacNeil in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, as well as, Exhibitions in Paris, Buffalo, and Saint Louis. The story of California Palace and its permanent reconstruction is an interesting one:
“The California Palace of the Legion of Honor originated as the French pavilion in San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Alma de Bretteville Spreckels was so impressed with the pavilion that she offered to construct a permanent museum in its likeness, which was completed in 1924 and now stands as the Legion of Honor.”
Thus the 1929 exhibit gave birth to this historic photo by Moulin. An previous image of this postcard was posted several years ago on this website at [click here]
Christmas Greetings from the home of Hermon and Carol MacNeil.
Pictured below is a tinted postcard of their studio which ajoined their home on College Point. Beneath that you can see their actual 1922 Christmas card drawn by Hermon MacNeil for their friends. Married on Christmas Day in 1895, this is also Hermon and Carol’s 27th Wedding Anniversary. (CLICK for MORE)
Note how Hermon’s Christmas card sketch resembles his “Sun Vow” pair of Native Americans from a quarter century earlier.
from the MacNeil’s of College Point just 91 years ago.
WE ASSURE FREEDOM TO THE FREE”. Abraham Lincoln
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Philadelphia By Hermon A. MacNeil was dedicated in 1927. Two 60 foot granite pylons mark the entrance to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The period automobiles and newly planted trees line the Parkway. This beautiful boulevard leads from Logan Circle through the rolling Parkway Gardens on up the hill to the Philadelphia Art Museums.