Lincoln Memorial Defaced

LINCOLN MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON DC VANDALIZED news stories are easy enough to find. What bothered me aside from the stupid splash of green paint on the memorial’s base was that the sculptor wasn’t even mentioned.

DANIEL CHESTER FRENCH 1850-1931 grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. His neighbors were Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Alcott family, and May Alcott, sister of Louisa May Alcott, encouraged him to become a sculptor.

I first noticed Chester French’s existence about 30 years ago in a picture book about his studio, a very inventive, perfectly splendid studio beyond all studios set in a little garden and he called the place Chesterwood. I immersed myself in Chesterwood history for months, I could not get enough of it. 

Most artists will reflect on the crapshit studios in their lives when suffering dominated, the disastrous unsteady shelves from which turps splashed and brushes vanished, darkness prevailed, freezing winters set ice on windows INSIDE, hands froze and noses ran and materials to use were scarce. I wanted til my heart ached a studio like French’s one day and I would call it Sparhawkwood. Or maybe, The Hawks Perch.(Watercolor by Marguerite Bride)

French’s best friend Henry Bacon, an architect who worked on a lot of public sculptures with French including the classically gorgeous surrounds of the Lincoln Memorial, joined in the design and building of the studio.  It still exists and is going through a renovation which one hopes will not be horrendous. They built a railroad track of maybe fifty feet or so that would glide platformed statues he worked on from inside to the outside yard so he could continually check on the way light from above hit the figures. 

The Seated Lincoln is such a moving figure. I’ve seen it in person, and it is just immense. And so beautifully situated, the President in that chair, that from all angles the vision simply stuns. It’s a great accomplishment. Except for the Lincoln and a few other pieces I’ve never been enraptured with French’s work which is a little too perfect, too smooth, too romantic. But he really nailed Lincoln. It’s full of strong life and rough drama and will move the hardest heart.

The little giggling idiots who vandalized it with green paint at 1 am this morning should be waterboarded in the Reflecting Pool. No damage was apparently done. The parks department got it cleaned up with high power hoses.  Lincoln lives. So does the artist.

                    DANIEL CHESTER FRENCH, AMERICAN SCULPTOR, In his studio in Concord, Massachusetts


6 thoughts on “Lincoln Memorial Defaced

  1. Just coming up for air after 20 guests in 3 weeks. How wonderful to get to read your account of Chester French in prose that is so comfortable/engaging & leaves me wanting more. Even reading your shopping lists would be interesting to me. 6 more guests in the next 2 weeks…then the Nelson B & B will be officially closed for the summer. “tobacco & cognac” now there’s an idea for Sparhawk perfume. Missing you & that wonderful environ.

    • You are such a trooper, what a woman. Imagine that kind of influx…no, can’t. But I also know the pleasure you get from your friends and feel lucky to be included in, even from afar.
      Lovely of you to say what you have about my writing, and so glad you liked the Chester French story. His studio always seemed a marvel to me. His, and the sweet octagon-shaped writer’s den the family built for Mark Twain off alone on an edge of the Connecticut property where he worked. And Monet’s studio which could only be reached by skiff-for-one. A good working studio does have and should have an aura.
      Re tobacco and cognac perfume….the House of Caron, the French perfumiers, make one of 2 favorites of mine, both from the 20’s or 30’s. One is called Tobac Blond, extraordinary fragrance favored by Deitrich, which I’ve worn when I could afford it since my 20’s. The other is by Guerlain, called Vol de Nuit, (Night Flight), named for the adventuresome aeronautical St. Exupery, author of Petit Prince and Wind, Sand, and Stars. Bit more flowery and absolutel divine.
      I can’t help but add Rembrandt’s response to a nettlesome studio visitor, which served to repel her,
      “Madam…the smell of the colours will disturb you.”

  2. Family money, or from well paid commissions, really helps in building the perfect studio … but love of art and creativity gives any studio the atmosphere that you describe so well. great post, I also like the Memorial.

    • Good commissions are a total delight, altering the day to day living problems to a good long stretch including materials and dinner!
      I’ve probably had an equal number of rotten and superb studios. Frequently with trade-offs. Sometimes a wonderful locale is spoilt by intrusions, or the overhead gets out of hand, or light is no good. And times when perfection itself is on hand and the building gets sold, you learn from all of it.
      I imagine most artists have similar experiences, and that very few have studios for a life-time of creative effort. The important thing is to find a good place to work and get busy. If the surrounds change the innermost drive need not.

    • My own studio is pretty terrific, thanks Nola. You’ve seen it in every incarnation so far including the very first minutes of occupancy, and thanks for that, too. Studios should contain rarified atmosphere and vision, should be transporting, inviting, and screaming to be filled with brilliant ideas and the strong smells of turpentine and varnish and tobacco and cognac.

Your opinions are welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s