Daniel Chester French

Daniel Chester French
Born (1850-04-20)April 20, 1850
Exeter, New Hampshire
Died October 7, 1931(1931-10-07) (aged 81)
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Known for Sculpture
Movement American Renaissance
Patron(s) Hiram Powers, Thomas Ball

Daniel Chester French (April 20, 1850 – October 7, 1931), one of the most prolific and acclaimed American sculptors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is best known for his design of the monumental work, the statue of Abraham Lincoln (1920) in the Lincoln Memorial, 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,[1] and his wife Anne Richardson.[2] In 1867, French moved with his family to Concord, Massachusetts,[3] 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.

Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, French's summer home and studio, now a museum

French's early education included training in anatomy with William Rimmer and in drawing with William Morris Hunt. French spent a year studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also several years in Florence, Italy studying in the studio of Thomas Ball. French first earned acclaim for the Minute Man, commissioned by the town of Concord, Massachusetts, which was unveiled April 19, 1875, on the centenary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He soon established his own studio, first in Washington DC, moving later to Boston and then to New York City. French's reputation grew with his Statue of the Republic for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago. Other memorable works by French include: the First Division Monument and the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain in Washington; John Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts; bronze doors for the Boston Public Library; and The Four Continents at the US Custom House, New York (now the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House). In addition to the Lincoln Memorial, French collaborated with architect Henry Bacon on numerous memorials around the country and on the Dupont Circle fountain in Washington DC.

In 1893, French was a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and he was appointed a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1913.[4] 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. He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and a co-founder of the American Academy in Rome. He was a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and was awarded a medal of honor from the Paris Exposition of 1900; he also was granted honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, and Columbia Universities. He was a founding member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, serving from 1910 to 1915, including as chairman from 1912 to 1915.[5]

In 1917, French and a colleague, H. Augustus Lukeman, designed the Pulitzer Prize gold medal presented to laureates. French designed the side of the prize with Benjamin Franklin on it, while Lukeman created the iconic design of the printing press and the wording on the award: "For disinterested and meritorious public service rendered by an American newspaper during the year….".[6] In collaboration with Edward Clark Potter he modeled the George Washington statue, presented to France by the Daughters of the American Revolution; the General Grant statue in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, commissioned by the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association);[7] and the General Joseph Hooker statue in Boston.

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,[8] which later became the Berkshire Theatre Festival. In 1917, Harvard's citation in conferring an honorary Master of Arts referred to his statue of Emerson[9] when it called him "a sculptor, whose skilful hand, unlike that of the friend whom he portrayed, has not been stopped but spared to adorn our land by the creation of his art".[10][11]

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

Minute Man (Concord) (1874) in Concord, Massachusetts



Notable public monuments

Architectural sculpture

Justice (1900) adorns the pediment of the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State in Manhattan
Law, Prosperity, and Power (1880-84), West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.[16]
Daniel Chester French's The Minute Man depicted on US Postage Stamp, 1925 Issue, 5c
~ Daniel Chester French ~
Issue of 1940

Cemetery monuments

Selected museum pieces

Miscellaneous pieces



  1. French, Henry F. (1859). Farm drainage: the principles, processes, and effects of draining land with stones, wood, plows, and open ditches, and especially with tiles. New York: Orange Judd & Company.
  2. "French, Daniel Chester". Men of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries. 1: p. 924. 1908.
  3.  Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "French, Daniel Chester". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  4. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter F" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  5. Luebke, Thomas E., ed., Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2013): Appendix B, p. 544.
  6. Homren, Wayne (11 April 2004). "Pulitzer Secrets Revealed". The E-Sylum. 7 (15, art. 5). Retrieved 2007-07-01.
  7. Bach, Penny (1992). Public Art in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. p. 208. ISBN 0-87722-822-1.
  8. "Arts & Entertainment In The Berkshires".
  9. "Harvard Alumni Bulletin". Harvard Bulletin, Incorporated. 1 January 1916 via Google Books.
  10. Callan, Richard L. 100 Dears of Solitude: John Harvard Finishes His First Century. The Harvard Crimson. April 28, 1984. Retrieved October 13, 2012
  11. Harvard Alumni Bulletin v.19
  12. "1847usa.com".
  13. Chicago Landmarks | Statue of The Republic at www.ci.chi.il.us
  14. "Lincoln Memorial National Memorial---Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures Explore their Stories in the National Park System: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary".
  15. Ramsey Al-Rikabi (2007-06-12). "Seward's bust gets busted". Times Herald-Record. Retrieved 2007-06-30.
  16. (Law, Prosperity, and Power, SIRIS) ]]
  17. "Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society". www.lwhs.us. Retrieved 2016-02-09.

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