Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Republic


The Republic, 1918
Daniel Chester French
Jackson Park
Hayes (63rd) and Richards Drives

            Best known for his Seated Lincoln (1922) at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was an East Coast sculptor who successfully combined his own naturalistic style with the Beaux-Arts approach favored by Lorado Taft. Much admired by Taft and others of his generation, French created the original version of this work for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where it stood over the eastern end of the Grand Basin that filled the Court of Honor. The original statue was 65-feet tall and stood upon a 35-foot tall pedestal, so large that it reached well above the cornice line of the surrounding buildings. Made of staff (reinforced plaster) and partially covered in gold leaf, the original also featured electric lights in the crown that glowed at night. Like most of the other buildings and sculptural works, however, it was destroyed at the end of the fair. This 24-foot high gilded bronze version, based upon the surviving plaster model, was erected in Jackson Park to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fair and the centennial of Illinois statehood. The site where it stands was the location of the 1893 Exposition’s Administration building.
            A female personification of the “Republic” fashioned after classical forms, French’s figure holds a globe surmounted by an American eagle and a pike topped with a liberty cap. A static figure with both feet planted firmly on the ground, she exudes stability and permanence. Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial, designed the pedestal for the 1918 statue and worked with French on many other commissions. 

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