Daniel Chester French's summer home and studio is located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. "Chesterwood" (named after French's grandfather's house in Chester, New Hampshire) is a 122 acre estate where many of French's best known works were designed. The house, studio and gardens are open to the public (an admission fee is charged) and there is a modest gift shop on the property. Chesterwood also has exhibits of modern sculpture.
Different things about Chesterwood appeal to different people. For me, French's studio is the high point. This large structure has many of French's original models and what many consider to be his most stunning work, "Andromeda." The studio, designed by Henry Bacon and completed in 1898 raises question upon question for any guest who is confronted with a dizzying array of images. Access to the house and studio are by guided tour only. During the many times I have been to Chesterwood I have found the guides to be helpful and informative, although I have often wished guides had more detailed information about specific pieces in the studio as I find myself constantly wondering, "What is that?" only to be told, sadly, "I don't know..." Chesterwood seems to be organized for the tourist interested in a casual look at French and his creative life; those wanting an in depth study of his work will need to look elsewhere although the visitor center (where the gift shop is located) has a good exhibit about several of French's works (most recently updated in 2001).
Chesterwood is open from May 1 - October 31. Photography is not allowed inside the studio or house but the photos below were taken on the Chesterwood grounds and give an idea of some of the things that await the visitor. Anyone interested in French's work will not be disappointed in visiting Chesterwood. While in the area, visitors can also take in the Norman Rockwell Museum and Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. For more information about Chesterwood, visit the Chesterwood website.
All photos below were taken by Douglas Yeo in August 2002 and August 2005
|This is a view of French's studio. The entrance (for tours) is from the porch to the left. The original entrance leading to the reception room is on the right side (where tours exit). To the right, out of view, are beautiful formal gardens.|
|This closer view of the studio shows the reception room on the right. Note the large number of windows that flood the studio with light, and how tall the studio is, built to accommodate large models.|
|When tour groups are taken to the studio, they first congregate on the porch. To the left of the porch you can see a interesting contraption French had built into the studio. Consideration of the effect of lighting is an important part of creating sculpture. So he could see his works in progress in natural light (since most were to be displayed outdoors), French had a short railroad track constructed. French would move a sculpture onto a part of the floor of the inside of the studio that was actually on wheels. When the large door was opened, the statue could be rolled outside into natural light.|
|This view shows the full outdoor extension of the track.|
|The doorway leading from the porch to the studio is seen on the right. The bench built into the outside wall is flanked with two rejected models of Indians for the Francis Parkman Memorial (Jamaica Plain, MA). If one was to turn around and look over the porch, you would be greeted with a magnificent view of Monument Mountain in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.|
|The rejected Parkman Memorial model set into the wall to the left of the bench.|
|The rejected Parkman Memorial model set into the wall to the right of the bench.|
|Photography at Chesterwood is not allowed inside French's studio, his house or in the museum attached to the gift shop. On a recent visit to Chesterwood, I took the last tour of the day and upon leaving French's studio and standing outside, snapped this photo through a window in the closed door. It gives but a taste of the wonders awaiting a visitor to Chesterwood. Covered in a white sheet for the night is French's stunning "Andromeda." Behind "Andromeda" with outstretched arms is a model for French's "The Genius of Creation" and Memory is seen at far right in clay. Studies for the Clark Memorial are on the wall. This and much more awaits the visitor to Chesterwood. Do not miss an opportunity to visit Chesterwood and immerse yourself more deeply in the work of Daniel Chester French.|
|The tour of Chesterwood begins at the gift shop which then leads to a small garden for an orientation session. In the garden is a bronze casting of French's 1912 statue of a standing Abraham Lincoln, the original of which stands at the State House in Lincoln, Nebraska.|
|A closeup view of French's standing Lincoln.|
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