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First Posted: July 18, 2012
Jan 31, 2015

Daniel Chester French/American Sculptor

Image: Public Domain
Born: April 20, 1850, Exeter, New Hampshire
Died: October 7, 1931 (aged 81), Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Nationality: American
Field: Sculpture
Movement: American Renaissance
Influenced by: Hiram Powers, Thomas Ball

Daniel Chester French (April 20, 1850-October 7, 1931) was an American sculptor. His best-known work is the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln (1920) at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Life and Career

French was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, to Henry Flagg French (1813-1885), a lawyer, judge, Assistant US Treasury Secretary and author of a book that described the French drain, and his wife Anne Richardson. In 1867, French moved with his family to Concord, Massachusetts, where he was a neighbor and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Alcott family. His decision to pursue sculpting was influenced by Louisa May Alcott's sister May Alcott.

...After a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, French worked on his father's farm. While visiting relatives in Brooklyn, New York City, he spent a month in the studio of John Quincy Adams Ward, then began to work on commissions, and at the age of 23 received from the town of Concord an order for his well-known statue The Minute Man, which was unveiled April 19, 1875, on the centenary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Previously French had gone to Florence, Italy, where he spent a year working with sculptor Thomas Ball.

French was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1913. In 1917, he designed the Pulitzer Prize gold medal presented to laureates. In collaboration with Edward Clark Potter he modelled the George Washington statue, presented to France by the Daughters of the American Revolution; the General Grant statue in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, and the General Joseph Hooker statue in Boston.

In 1893, French was a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and he became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. French also became a member of the National Academy of Design (1901), the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Architectural League, and the Accademia di San Luca, of Rome. French was one of many sculptors who frequently employed Audrey Munson as a model. Together with Walter Leighton Clark and others, he was also one of the founders of the Berkshire Playhouse, which later became the Berkshire Theatre Festival.

French died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1931 at age 81 and was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

Legacy

Chesterwood, French's summer home and studio - designed by his architect friend and frequent collaborator Henry Bacon - is now a museum. In 1940, French was selected as one of five artists to be honored in the 35-stamp "Famous Americans" series.

For More Information:

National Statuary Hall
Samuel Francis Du Pont
The Library of Congress/American Memory

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