Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Signal of Peace


A Signal of Peace, 1890 (installed 1894)
Cyrus Edwin Dallin
Lincoln Park
North of the entrance to Diversey Harbor, east of Lake Shore Drive

            Originally exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1890 and, subsequently, as part of the United States sculpture exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, this depiction of a Sioux chief astride the type of pony typically ridden by Plains Indians reveals the artist’s studied interest in Native Americans. Cyrus Edwin Dallin (1861-1944) spent his childhood in close contact with Utes in a small town in Utah and he maintained a strong sympathy for the suffering of Indians during his lifetime. While studying in Paris at the Académie Julian, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show came to the city and Dallin used Indians from the show as models. The figure is depicted with characteristic moccasins, breechcloth and war bonnet but the point of the spear that held the emblem of peace has been lost.
            Judge Lambert Tree, prominent Chicago philanthropist responsible for the La Salle monument in Lincoln Park, decided to purchase this work after seeing it at the Exposition. He wrote that Indians had been “oppressed and robbed by government agents. . . shot down by soldiery in wars fomented for the purpose of plundering and destroying their race, and finally drowned by the ever westward tide of population.” Tree, famous for starting a trial that made the first conviction for corruption in Illinois, admired Dallin’s sensitive portrayal of the Indian chief and explained that he wanted a public memorial to Indians because he believed that there was “no future for them except as they may exist as a memory in the sculptor’s bronze or stone and the painter’s canvas.”
            The statue was originally located just northwest of the Grant Memorial but was moved during the 1920s to accommodate the expansion of the Lincoln Park Zoo. In the 1940s, the Billy Caldwell Post of the American Legion petitioned to move it to the Caldwell Woods in the Cook County Forest Preserves but the request was denied.

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