Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was one of the leading sculptors of nineteenth century America. He was born in Exeter, New Hampshire and spent his adolescent years in Concord, Massachusetts. As an adult, French divided his time between New York City and Chesterwood, his family home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Chesterwood is now preserved as a museum open to the public.
During French’s years in Concord he came under the influence of the intellectual, artistic circle of the Alcotts and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is probably through their influence that he came to accept his first public commission, The Minute Man in Concord, Massachusetts, 1871-1875. Although The Minute Man is an early work, it points the direction that French’s work was to take. He imbued his contemporary and historical figures with a sense of life and movement, quite unlike the other sculptors of his time. There is a strong definition of human form and a rugged quality of the Lincoln, 1911-12, in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., is the culmination of his abilities. The figure is treated in French’s traditional academic style but the feeling of the man and his ideals seem to reach out to the viewer.
French studied, for brief periods, with William Hunt, William Rimmer, and John Quincy Adams Ward (q.v.). In 1879, he was invited to share Thomas Ball’s studio in Florence. The study of classical and Renaissance works proved to be highly inspirational. After his return from Italy, French felt that inspiration would not be enough. He decided to go to Paris in order to study sculpture as a three dimensional, moving form. He continued to improve his modelling techniques and finally in 1866, went to Paris.
Daniel Chester French - 1902
Map of Daniel Chester French Works
Work by this Artist
- Daniel Chester French : Published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum