Archive for Cass Gilbert
“Slow but steady wins the race.”
So said Aesop in the fable of the “Tortoise and the Hare.” And those are the two last figures that Hermon A. MacNeil placed as ‘bookends’ on either end of the East Pediment of the US Supreme Court Building. On our recent visit to Washington, D.C., we slowly made our way to the Supreme Court Building, we walked steadily around to the East Pediment (back side) passing the barricades for all the current landscape construction.
There, hidden high on the seldom-seen back side of **Cass Gilbert’s last architectural achievement, rests the eleven marble figures of Hermon A. MacNeil’s tribute to “Justice: The Guardian of Liberty.” Unless you walk around the building you will miss this massive work of art.
Moses, Confucius, and Solon represent three great world civilizations. Moses (receiver of Hebrew Ten Commandments) is in the center. To his right is Confucius (Chinese philosopher and teacher). To Moses’ left is Solon (Athenian lawmaker, statesman, and poet). MacNeil explained his work as follows:
“Law as an element of civilization was normally and naturally derived or inherited in this country from former civilizations. The ‘Eastern Pediment’ of the Supreme Court Building suggests therefore the treatment of such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived from the East.”
This trio of law makers are framed on left and right by three pairs of allegorical figures. The rest of the grouping is as follows:
“Flanking this central group – left – is the symbolical figure bearing the means of enforcing the law. On the right a group tempering justice with mercy, allegorically treated. The “Youth” is brought into both these groups to suggest the “Carrying on” of civilization through the knowledge imbibed of right and wrong. The next two figures with shields; Left – The settlement of disputes between states through enlightened judgment. Right – Maritime and other large functions of the Supreme Court in protection of the United States. The last figures: Left – Study and pondering of judgments. Right – A tribute to the fundamental and supreme character of this Court. Finale – The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.“
East Pediment description: CLICK HERE
** NOTE: “Gilbert, Sr. died in 1934, one year before the completion of the Supreme Court Building by his son, Cass Gilbert, Jr. MacNeil and Gilbert first collaborated in 1904 at the Saint Louis World’s Fair. That “Palace of Fine Arts” on Art Hill now houses the St. Louis Art Museum.”
For more on Supreme Court Building See Also:
For more on Saint Louis World’s Fair See Also:
I recently visited our nation’s Capitol with family. Sculpture and history are everywhere. On the way to the Supreme Court to take a few photos of MacNeil’s tortoise and the hare, I was lured away by a few wonderful sites.
So the East Pediment of 11 figures (Moses, Confucius, Solon, the tortoise and the hare, and six others) would have to wait.
In front of the White House in Lafayette Square, I found Andrew Jackson rearing up on horseback and waiving his hat to the White House and Washington monument in the distance. Apparently, he has been doing that pose for over 160 years when Clark Mills’ tribute to Jackson was emplaced. For more perspectives and close-up details on this piece click HERE at DCmemorials.com.
Behind the Old Executive Office Building, high on a Roman column stood “Victory” by Daniel Chester French. Cass Gilbert was also the architect of this WWI memorial to the First Infantry Division. All of the funds for the monument as well as the additions were provided by the Society of the First Infantry Division.
To see this full monument and others in the Ellipse and D.C. CLICK HERE. The StationStart.com website provides photos and history to accompany your ride on the Metro through the Capitol.
On across the street stands the Washington Monument which is closed for structural repairs following the earth quake last year. Some mortar was loosened and cracks opened. But the spire stands tall and proud like the General himself.
On down the hill to the west rests the WWII Memorial. Nestled into the center of the Mall, this oval dish of fountains, pools, and 56 state and territorial salutes gathers people into a living history. Veterans of WWII, some of the last remaining were there on that sunny Saturday morning giving dignity and flesh and blood to this stunningly compelling tribute. As a VA Chaplain, I found myself shedding more tears here and recalling the veterans I have been privileged to know.
ALL GAVE SOME – SOME GAVE ALL. These 4048 Gold Stars commemorate the 404,800 American soldiers who died in World War II. Each Gold Star here represents 100 dead.
During the war, each mother of a veteran would place a Blue Star in the front window of the family home. A Gold Star is what a mother placed if a son had been killed in action.
For more photos and history on this monument see HERE.
COMING: Next post will take us to the Lincoln Memorial to see Daniel Chester French’s most renowned sculpture.
At each corner of the East Pediment of the U.S. Supreme Court Building, Hermon MacNeil placed the figures of a ‘tortoise’ and a ‘hare.’ His local newspaper (“Brooklyn Daily Star”) carried the story below on the MacNeil’s 67th Birthday, February 27, 1933.
The greater figures (Moses, Confucius, and Solon [not Plato]) received more publicity and scrutiny. Some questioned that placement as making some ‘religious’ statement (See previous Posting of Jan 13th, 2012).
MacNeil’s use of the little symbolic animals so familiar to readers of Aesop’s Fables (children’s readings from a century ago) may seem quaint in 21st Century media, but provide an appropriate allegorical meaning and use of confined ‘space.’
Also see previous story on this website at:
Of further note in the “Brooklyn Daily Star” article is the reference to Alden MacNeil. He was Hermon and Carol’s younger son. Whether he worked ‘for’ Cass Gilbert or ‘with’ the famous architect is unclear. I suspect the later. Either way being “associated” with Cass Gilbert the renowned architectural firm on the Supreme Court Building project is a significant point of the story.
While it seems difficult to NOT associate ‘religious connotations’ with representations of ‘Moses,’ wherever they may be, MacNeil’s interpretation of his sculpture is quoted as follows:
MacNeil didn’t intend his sculptures to have religious connotations. Explaining his work, MacNeil wrote, “Law as an element of civilization was normally and naturally derived or inherited in this country from former civilizations. The ‘Eastern Pediment’ of the Supreme Court Building suggests therefore the treatment of such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived from the East.” ( http://architecture.about.com/od/greatbuildings/ss/SupremeCourt_7.htm )
Moses appears as the central figure on the Supreme Court building’s east side holding two stone tablets. The pediment was started in 1932 and completed in 1934. Cass Gilbert was the building architect. He and MacNeil collaborated in 1904 of the Saint Louis Art Museum built as the “Palace of Fine Arts” for the World’s Fair known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase Exposition.”
In her 2005 news article, Andrea James reports multiple appearances of ‘Moses’ in the building housing the last final option for appeals in the U.S. Judiciary Branch of government:
“The Jewish lawgiver is depicted several times in the stone and marble edifice that is the Supreme Court building, and so are the Ten Commandments. In sculpture, Moses sits as the prominent figure atop the building’s east side, holding two tablets representing the Ten Commandments. And on the wall directly behind the chief justice’s chair, an allegorical “Majesty of Law” places his muscular left arm on a tablet depicting the Roman numerals I through X.
Believers are convinced those are indeed the commandments given to Moses as described in the biblical Book of Exodus. Others say the 10 numbers represent the Bill of Rights.”
Regardless of past or future discussions the Supreme Court Building and the implied connotations of the presence of ‘Moses’ depicted there, MacNeil used multiple figures representing a diversity of cultures. These various traditions of laws written on tablets, scrolls or parchment are used throughout the Building.
In addition, this practice is consistent with the plans of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and patterns used in other government buildings, including the U. S. Capitol Building with its Classic temple architecture.
“In 1792, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Johnson placed of an advertisement announcing a Capitol architectural contest in a Philadelphia newspaper. The ad contained rules and requirements for size and numbers of rooms and such. The judges of the competition were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Commissioners of the District of Colombia. The philosopher Jefferson, a classically educated man like many of the founders, saw in temple designs like the Temple of the Sun, the Parthenon and the Roman Pantheon a symbolism of democracy and philosophy resurrected.
Jefferson, Washington and the committee thought that the new capitol building(s) should symbolize a Temple of Liberty in a secular sense. Entries were mostly Renaissance or Georgian, which is based on Palladian, a classical revival style of the renaissance. But the Graeco-Roman modeled entries were the most liked by the Washington, Jefferson, and the committee. The committee took the symbolic nature of the Capitol seriously. For the committee, the design must symbolize the functions and themes of the capitol.”
For more of the plans and drawings presented in the Library of Congress online exhibits see: ( http://community-2.webtv.net/westernmind/WASHINGTONDC/ )
The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition ~ St. Louis World’s Fair, commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.
At the 1270 acre Forest Park location and the campus of Washington University the Fair was constructed and the Olympic Games were held.
“Fifteen major exhibition Palaces radiated in fan pattern from central Festival Hall in “setting of lagoons, boulevards, gardens, fountains and sculpture” (1,200 pieces of statuary). Electric light, sign of progress then, used “lavishly” for both decoration and illumination. Featured were motor car, aeronautics and wireless telegraphy–all at their earliest, most exciting stage of development; spotlight on auto which had traveled from New York City to St. Louis, then “an unprecedented feat and a hazardous journey.” Olympic Games held during Exposition in first concrete stadium built in U.S.”
For the event, MacNeil exhibited three sculptures: “The Moqui Runner,” “A Primitive Chant,” “The Coming of the White Man” (pictured here from period postcard showing the Portland, Oregon setting.)
On a prominent hill of the Forest Park location, Cass Gilbert designed and build the Palace of Fine Arts. This one permanent building remains 106 years later as the home of the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM).
It also became one of many collaborations of Gilbert and MacNeil over the next 30 year. The most famous of these would be the last in 1932 – the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
Gilbert designed the front entrance of this Palace of Fine Arts to bear six Corinthian columns. The four central columns frame the three MacNeil reliefs sculptures above the three entrance doors. Inscribed on his center panel are the words “ARS ARTIUM OMNIUM “roughly meaning, “The art of all arts.”
That panel is pictured here.
This link below on the SLAM website also offers more detail images of all three panels and the building entrance:
The MacNeil work was a part of that “Palace of Fine Art” and his abilities in the Beaux Arts style seemed to seal his collaborative link to many projects grown from Cass Gilbert’s genius. The inscription “ARS ARTIUM OMNIUM” translates literally from the Latin as “the Art of all Arts.”
Above the columns of the Saint Louis Art Museum are inscribed the words, “DEDICATED TO ART AND FREE TO ALL – MDCDIII.” That Free to All spirit remains today in that admission is free through a subsidy from the ZMD.
A New York Times article offers editorial on “free art” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/arts/design/22admi.html?_r=1
Other works completed by MacNeil for the fair were the “Fountain of Liberty” and the massive sculpture “Physical Liberty.” The artist rendition below shows both. “Physical Liberty” is the large Buffalo sculpture on the right. A young woman on the other side accompanies the powerful beast. Detail photos of the fountain are difficult to attain. Hopefully, more to Come!
In the meanwhile, Enjoy!
The Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries were filled with hundreds of World’s Fairs. Hermon Atkins MacNeil began his career as a sculptor in the 1890s. He worked on five of these events that were in the U.S. between 1901 and 1915. He helped design buildings, outdoor art, plazas, exhibits, and entered sculptures in many of these expositions.
MacNeil’s works were entered in the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (1901); the Charleston Exposition in South Carolina (1902); the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (1904); [MacNeil Sculpture “Meets Me in St. Louis” (7.3) On a recent trip to Saint Louis, Missouri to visit…] the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon (1905); and the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in (1915)
In future postings we will gather information on these events and MacNeil’s involvement in expos that became extravaganzas of art and sculptures. So more on Chicago, Buffalo, Charleston, Saint Louis, Portland, and San Francisco fairs. Most of the fairs that MacNeil worked on were built in the peak era of the Beaux Arts style of architecture and sculpture in the U.S. He was part of a the American Renaissance from 1890 to 1920, the last phase of Neoclassicism in United States. (See also Beaux Arts link above).
Below is a Wikipedia list of World Fairs from 1700 to the present. Modern Expos tend to be held in outside of the USA in nations with developing economies and growing world trade.
List of World’s Fairs: Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_world%27s_fairs#1890s
Photo Credit: http://www.slam.org/