Daniel Chester French's connection to Concord, Massachuetts is deeper than the fact that he lived and is buried there. While living in Concord, French was a neighbor of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American author, lecturer and founder of the "Trancendental" movement. The two became friends, so it was no surprise that French would be commissioned to create two sculptures of Emerson.
French's two scluptures of Emerson are in the Concord Free Library in Concord, Massachuetts. The first, a bust, was made in 1883/84 after a clay model made in 1879 when French was 29 years old. Emerson sat for the bust and is said to have commented, upon seeing it for the first time, "Dan, that's the face I shave." Plaster casts were made from the clay model before French was commissioned by a group of 135 patrons who wished to have a bust of Emerson in the Concord Library. The bust can be found today in the reading room of the Concord Library under a protective plexiglass covering.
In 1896, four years after Emerson's death (Emerson, like French, is buried in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery), the town of Concord voted to erect a statue in memory of Emerson; funds were to be raised by private subscription. It was not until around 1910 that French began work on the sculpture and it was dedicated on May 23, 1914, four days after the 111th anniversary of Emerson's birth. The sculpture shows the seated Emerson in middle age in a pose reminiscent of French's statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. French's sculpture of Emerson is a centerpiece of the Concord Library.
The Concord Library Association mounted an exhibition about Emerson in 2003, celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth. The Library's website has additional information about French's two sculptures of Emerson including photographs, commentary and letters. For the Concord Library Association's page about French's bust of Emerson, click HERE. For the Library's page about the full size statue of the seated Emerson, click HERE.
All photos below were taken by Douglas Yeo on May 21, 2012.
|Daniel Chester French's bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson in situ in the Concord Free Library, Concord, Massachusetts.|
|A closer view of the front of French's bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Click HERE to view a higher resolution image of this photo.|
|A view of Emerson's left profile.|
|Daniel Chester French's sculpture of the seated of Ralph Waldo Emerson in situ in the Concord Free Library, Concord, Massachusetts.|
|Front view of Daniel Chester French's sculpture of the seated of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Click HERE to view a higher resolution image of this photo.|
|View of Daniel Chester French's sculpture of the seated of Ralph Waldo Emerson showing Emerson's right side. The pine branches at the base of the chair are emblematic of Emerson's love of nature.|
|Close up of Emerson's head and chest.|
by Douglas Yeo. All rights reserved.