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Daniel Chester French – Virtual Tour

Daniel Chester French - Virtual Tour

Daniel Chester French – Virtual Tour

Daniel Chester French (1850 – 1931) was an American sculptor best known for his design of the monumental statue of Abraham Lincoln (1920) in the Lincoln Memorial, 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.

He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He was a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and was awarded a medal of honor from the Paris Exposition of 1900.

He was a founding member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, including as chairman from 1912 to 1915.

Virtual Tour of Daniel Chester French

Highlights Tour of Daniel Chester French

Statue of Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Memorial

“Statue of Abraham Lincoln” by Daniel Chester French is a colossal seated figure of United States President Abraham Lincoln housed in the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., United States.

The figure of Lincoln gazes directly ahead and slightly down with an expression of gravity and solemnity. His frock coat is unbuttoned, and a large United States flag is draped over the chair back and sides.

Daniel Chester French sculpted the work in the Beaux-Arts and American Renaissance style traditions. The work was unveiled at the memorial’s formal dedication in 1922.

French paid special attention to Lincoln’s expressive hands and used his own fingers’ casts to achieve the correct placement.

The Minute Man

“The Minute Man” by Daniel Chester French depicts a minuteman stepping away from his plow to join the Battle of Concord’s patriot forces. The young man has an overcoat thrown over his plow and has a flintlock long gun in his hand.

The farmer-turned-soldier is shown stepping away from his private life toward the battle for freedom. The sleeves of his coat and shirt are rolled up. A powder horn sits on his back. His eyes are focused on the battle ahead.

Minutemen were a part of the official militia of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The name minutemen came from the idea that they would be ready to fight with a minute’s notice.

The two companies of minutemen were made up of young volunteers who were paid one shilling, eightpence for their time drilling three times a week.

Alma Mater

“Alma Mater” by Daniel Chester French is a female figure draped in an academic gown, she wears a crown of laurels and sits on a throne.

The scroll-like arms of the throne end in lamps, representing “Sapientia and Doctrine” (“Wisdom and Learning”). A book signifying knowledge balances on her lap.

This bronze sculpture is the personification of the traditional image of Columbia University, in Manhattan, New York City, as an alma mater, or “nourishing mother.” 

Her right hand holds a scepter composed of four sprays of wheat, terminating with a crown of King’s College, which refers to Columbia’s origin in 1754 as a royal charter institution.

An owl, the attribute of wisdom and a symbol of knowledge and learning, is hidden in the folds of Alma Mater’s cloak near her left leg. 

Statue of John Harvard

“John Harvard” by Daniel Chester French is a sculpture in bronze honoring clergyman John Harvard (1607–1638), who made a deathbed bequest to the “College,” which had just been undertaken by the Massachu­setts Bay Colony.

John Harvard’s gift to the school was £780 and‍ ‌his 400-volume scholar’s library. As an act of gratitude and as an example for future endowments, the College was named Harvard College.

There was no documentation on what John Harvard looked like, so the sculptor Daniel Chester French used a Harvard student descended from an early Harvard president as inspiration.

The young-looking clergyman is sitting, holding an open book on his knee. He wears clerical clothes from the seventeenth century, with low shoes, long, silk hose, loose knee-breeches, and a tunic belted at the waist, while a long cloak is thrown back and falls in broad folds.

Daniel Chester French

Daniel Chester French: Sculpting an American Vision

A Virtual Tour of American Artists You Should Know

Daniel Chester French

Daniel Chester French


“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
– Michelangelo


Photo Credit: Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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