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Frederick William MacMonnies

Frederick William MacMonnies (1863-1937), was the best known expatriate American sculptor of the Beaux-Arts school, as successful and lauded in France as he was in the United States.
He was also a highly accomplished painter and portraitist.
He was born in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York and died in New York City.
Three of MacMonnies' best-known sculptures are Nathan Hale, Bacchante and Infant Faun and Diana.

Pioneer Monument by Frederick William MacMonnies (detail)

Apprenticeship and education

In 1880 MacMonnies began an apprenticeship under Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and was soon promoted to studio assistant, beginning his lifelong friendship with the acclaimed sculptor. MacMonnies studied at night with the National Academy of Design and The Art Students League of New York. In Saint-Gaudens' studio, he met Stanford White, who was turning to Saint-Gaudens for the prominent sculptures required for his architecture.
In 1884 MacMonnies traveled to Paris to study sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts, twice winning the highest award given to foreign students. In 1888 he opened a studio in Paris and began to create some of his most famous sculptures, which he submitted annually to the Paris Salon. In his atelier, he mentored such notable artists as Janet Scudder and Mary Foote. He was taught at the Académie Vitti in 1904.

Major commissions

In 1888, the intervention of Stanford White gained MacMonnies two major commissions for garden sculpture for influential Americans, a decorative Pan fountain sculpture for Rohallion, the New Jersey mansion of banker Edward Adams, who opened for him a social circle of art-appreciating New Yorkers, and a work for ambassador Joseph H. Choate, at Naumkeag, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
In 1889 an Honorable Mention at the Paris Salon for his Diana led to further and more public American commissions, including spandrel reliefs for Stanford White's permanent Washington Arch, New York, and the Nathan Hale memorial in City Hall Park, dedicated in 1893.
Until the outbreak of World War I, when he gave up his grand household establishment in Paris, MacMonnies travelled annually to the United States to see dealers and patrons, returning to Paris to work on his commissions. His long-term residence was at Giverny.

In 1891, he designed the statue of James S. T. Stranahan in Brooklyn. That same year, he was awarded the commission for the Columbian Fountain, the centerpiece of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago: the sculpture of Columbia in her Grand Barge of State, in the vast central fountain of the Court of Honor, was truly the iconic figure at the heart of the American Beaux-Arts movement. This large decorative fountain piece became the focal point at the Exposition and established MacMonnies as one of the important sculptors of the time.

In 1894, Stanford White brought another prestigious and highly visible commission, for three bronze groups for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza. The complicated figural groups occupied him for the next eight years.(Bogart, p. 35)
Around the turn of the century, MacMonnies was commissioned to design the equestrian statue of Henry Warner Slocum in Brooklyn, which was dedicated in 1905.
Due to fame gathered from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, he was commissioned to produce a large public sculpture celebrating the pioneers of the American Old West, his only work on this subject. MacMonnies began the work in 1906, and the work was unveiled in 1911.

The monument features a depiction of Kit Carson, and it marks the end of the Smoky Hill Trail, a popular route to Colorado Territory taken by gold-seekers, located near the Smoky Hill River.
Meanwhile he was still creating portraits and his 1904 full length painting of his student Mabel Conkling was said to be his "finest .. yet".
Commissioned in 1908, his Princeton Battle Monument, created in collaboration with architects Carrere and Hastings, located in Princeton, New Jersey was not completed until 1922.(Clark 1984)

Frederick William MacMonnies | Nathan Hale | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Nathan Hale

The life-size Nathan Hale was the first major commission gained by MacMonnies.
Erected in 1890 in City Hall Park, New York, it stands near where the actual Nathan Hale was thought to have been executed.
Copies are scattered in museums across the United States, since MacMonnies was one of the earliest American sculptors to supplement his fees from major commissions by selling reduced-size reproductions to the public.
The Metropolitan Museum has a copy, as do the Art Museum at Princeton University, the National Gallery of Art, Phoenix Art Museum, Orlando Museum of Art, and the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College.


At the Paris Salon, he was awarded the first Gold Medal ever given to an American sculptor.
Elected to the rank of Chevalier in the French Légion d'honneur in 1896 MacMonnies was awarded grand prize at the Paris Exposition of 1900.

This was a decade of enormous productivity and personal satisfaction.
A second career as a painter got a good public start in 1901, when he received an honorable mention at the Paris Salon for the first painting he entered.
He was selected for the Major General George B. McClellan statue in Washington, D.C., which was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1906.
He also won a silver medal in the art competition at the 1932 Summer Olympics.

Personal life

In 1888 MacMonnies married a fellow American artist, Mary Louise Fairchild, who was living in Paris on a three-year study scholarship. When the scholarship was completed, she and MacMonnies were married (the scholarship had stipulated that it would be voided if she married during its term), and they continued living and working in Paris, although they frequently returned to the States.
They shared the spotlight at the 1893 Chicago Exposition when he was commissioned to create the majestic Columbian fountain that was the centerpiece of the fair. Mary was asked to paint a giant mural, Primitive Woman, for the rotunda of the Woman's Building. A facing work, Modern Woman, would come from painter Mary Cassatt.

As their fortunes improved, the couple bought a home in Giverny, the artists' colony established by Claude Monet. They had three children: Berthe (1895), Marjorie (1897) and Ronald (1899).

But their lives increasingly diverged, as Frederick traveled to his Paris studio for large projects; he also had a long-running affair with another American artist (Alice Jones, who bore his son). He filed for divorce in 1909 (they had three children, two of whom survived infancy), after which he married Jones (1910).
In his absences, expatriate American artist Will Low, spending his summers in Giverny, had developed an interest in Mary. In 1909 Low's wife died; at nearly the same time MacMonnies filed for divorce from Mary, and Mary and Low were married in 1909.
They and her two daughters (Ronald died of meningitis in 1901) moved back to the States in early 1910, while MacMonnies remained in Giverny.
MacMonnies permanently relocated to the States in 1915, impelled by the outbreak of World War I. He lived in New York City until his death in 1937. He is interred in Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York. His grave is unmarked.

Frederick William MacMonnies è stato il più noto scultore Americano espatriato della scuola di Belle Arti, tanto di successo e lodato in Francia quanto negli Stati Uniti. Era anche un pittore e ritrattista di grande talento.
È nato a Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York ed è morto a New York City.

Apprendistato ed istruzione

Nel 1880 MacMonnies iniziò un apprendistato sotto Augustus Saint-Gaudens, e fu presto promosso ad assistente di studio, iniziando la sua amicizia permanente con l'acclamato scultore.
MacMonnies ha studiato di notte con la National Academy of Design e l'Art Students League di New York.
Nello studio di Saint-Gaudens incontrò Stanford White, che si rivolgeva a Saint-Gaudens per le sculture di spicco necessarie per la sua architettura.
Nel 1884 MacMonnies si recò a Parigi per studiare scultura all'École des Beaux-Arts, vincendo due volte il più alto riconoscimento assegnato agli studenti stranieri.
Nel 1888 apre uno studio a Parigi ed iniziò a creare alcune delle sue sculture più famose, che presenta annualmente al Salon di Parigi. Nel suo atelier, ha fatto da mentore ad artisti importanti come Janet Scudder e Mary Foote.
Insegnò all'Académie Vitti nel 1904.

Commissioni importanti

Nel 1888, l'intervento di Stanford White ottenne a MacMonnies due importanti commissioni per la scultura da giardino per influenti americani, una scultura decorativa con fontana Pan per Rohallion, la villa del New Jersey del banchiere Edward Adams, che aprì per lui un circolo sociale di newyorkesi che apprezzavano l'arte, e un lavoro per l'ambasciatore Joseph H. Choate, a Naumkeag, a Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

el 1889 una menzione d'onore al Salon di Parigi per la sua Diana portò ad ulteriori e più pubbliche commissioni americane, inclusi rilievi di pennacchi per il Washington Arch permanente di Stanford White, New York, ed il memoriale di Nathan Hale nel City Hall Park, dedicato nel 1893.
Allo scoppio della prima guerra mondiale, quando abbandonò il suo grande stabilimento familiare a Parigi, MacMonnies si recava ogni anno negli Stati Uniti per vedere commercianti e mecenati, tornando a Parigi per lavorare sulle sue commissioni.

La sua residenza a lungo termine era a Giverny.

Nel 1891 progettò la statua di James ST Stranahan a Brooklyn.
Nello stesso anno gli fu assegnata la commissione per la Columbian Fountain, il fulcro dell'Esposizione colombiana mondiale del 1893 a Chicago: la scultura della Columbia nella sua Grand Barge of State, nella vasta fontana centrale della Court of Honor, fu davvero il figura iconica al centro del movimento Beaux-Arts americano.
Questa grande fontana decorativa divenne il punto focale dell'Esposizione e fece di MacMonnies uno degli importanti scultori dell'epoca.
Nel 1894, Stanford White portò un'altra commissione prestigiosa e di grande visibilità, per tre gruppi in bronzo per il Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch nella Grand Army Plaza di Brooklyn. I complessi gruppi figurali lo occuparono per i successivi otto anni.

Intorno alla fine del secolo, MacMonnies fu incaricato di progettare la statua equestre di Henry Warner Slocum a Brooklyn, che fu dedicata nel 1905.

A causa della fama acquisita dall'Esposizione mondiale colombiana del 1893, gli fu commissionato di produrre una grande scultura pubblica che celebrasse i pionieri del vecchio West americano, la sua unica opera su questo argomento. MacMonnies iniziò i lavori nel 1906 e l'opera fu inaugurata nel 1911.
Il monumento presenta una rappresentazione di Kit Carson e segna la fine dello Smoky Hill Trail, una strada popolare per il Territorio del Colorado presa dai cercatori d'oro, situata vicino al Fiume fumoso della collina.
Nel frattempo stava ancora creando ritratti ed il suo dipinto a figura intera del 1904 della sua allieva Mabel Conkling era considerato il suo "più bello.. ancora".
Commissionato nel 1908, il suo Princeton Battle Monument, creato in collaborazione con gli architetti Carrere and Hastings, situato a Princeton, nel New Jersey, non fu completato fino al 1922.


Al Salon di Parigi, è stato insignito della prima medaglia d'oro mai assegnata ad uno scultore Americano.
Eletto al rango di Chevalier nella Légion d'honneur francese nel 1896, MacMonnies ricevette il gran premio all'Esposizione di Parigi del 1900.
Fu un decennio di enorme produttività e soddisfazione personale. Una seconda carriera come pittore ebbe un buon inizio pubblico nel 1901, quando ricevette una menzione d'onore al Salon di Parigi per il primo dipinto in cui entrò.
Fu selezionato per la statua del maggiore generale George B. McClellan a Washington, DC, che fu esposta per la prima volta al Salon di Parigi del 1906.
Ha anche vinto una medaglia d'argento nella competizione artistica alle Olimpiadi estive del 1932.