Abraham Lincoln, the Head of State (Seated Lincoln)

Abraham Lincoln, the Head of State (Seated Lincoln), 1908 (installed 1926)
Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Grant Park
Court of Presidents
North of Congress Parkway near Columbus Drive

            Depicting a deeply thoughtful and isolated leader, the work commonly described as the “Seated Lincoln” is the second portrait of the sixteenth president located in Chicago completed by sculptor AugustusSaint-Gaudens. Although the “Standing Lincoln” in Lincoln Park is better known and more critically acclaimed, the sculptor believed this one more successful, as it worked on the level of official portrait (and is sometimes confused with the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. by Daniel Chester French) as well as expression of personality.
            The statue was funded by a generous $100,000 bequest from wealthy railroad manufacturer John Crerar. His will set aside money for a free public reference library and a colossal statue of Lincoln to be placed in front of the building. The site chosen for the library, at Michigan and Randolph, did not allow enough space for the statue. Upon its completion, the statue was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then stored for years, displayed at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and, subsequently, shipped to Chicago and stored in a Washington Park warehouse until the location in Grant Park was completed in 1926.
            The bronze figure and chair sit atop a granite pedestal in the center of a 150-foot wide exedra flanked by two 50-foot tall fluted columns with carved torches as finials. Stanford White, the architect who collaborated with Saint-Gaudens on his “Standing Lincoln,” designed this setting. Although the South Park Commissioners in charge of the project hoped to add a George Washington monument to mirror the Lincoln in the so-called “Court of Presidents,” the plan was never realized.

Other statues of Lincoln in Chicago: 

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Bust of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable

Bust of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, 2009
Erik Blome
Pioneer Court 
Michigan Avenue at the Chicago River northeast side of Michigan Avenue Bridge

Haitian-born Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable (1745-1818) was recognized by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago in 1968 as the first known settler in area and the founder of the city.  In the 1770s, DuSable, a fur trader, opened the first trading post on what would later be named the Chicago River. The bust is located close to the site of the Pointe DuSable House, designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States of the Interior in 1977. Haitian-born Chicagoan Lesley Benodin donated the statue to the Chicago Public Art Collection to commemorate Chicago’s first businessman. Blome, a Chicago artist, has other works around the country and in the city, including the Chicago Blackhawks 75th Anniversary sculpture across the street from the United Center.

Cloud Gate (“The Bean”)

Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), 2004
Anish Kapoor
Millennium Park
East of North Michigan Avenue, on axis with East Washington Street

            Often it is difficult to predict how the public will respond to an innovative, large-scale work of art. It is even more difficult to imagine which work of public art, among the many located in a place like Chicago, might emerge as the “icon” of the city. Following the opening of Millennium Park, the one thing about which most Chicagoans would agree is that Cloud Gate, better known locally as “The Bean,” has replaced “The Picasso” as the unofficial symbol of Chicago. Even architect Frank Gehry, who designed the nearby Pritzker Pavilion, declared of Cloud Gate: “That’s the star of the show.”
            Artist Anish Kapoor was born in India in 1954 and has worked in London since the 1970s. Remarkably, Cloud Gate is his first outdoor permanent installation in the United States. Inspired, in part, by liquid mercury, the massive stainless steel structure is affectionately called “The Bean” due to its elliptical, kidney-bean shape. Deceptively simple in concept and form, Cloud Gate plays with the notion of a “triumphal arch” or “gateway” to a city in a manner that corresponds to the whimsical approach to a “fountain” demonstrated in Jaume Plensa’s nearby Crown Fountain. Abandoning any militaristic or nationalistic sentiment, Kapoor’s 33-foot high, 66-foot long sculpture features a twelve-foot high arch that invites viewers to pass through, gaze upward and encounter images of themselves rather than heroic figures from history. The artist has stated that he is “interested in how sculpture activates space” and believes that “big objects can do something poetically wondrous.” The reflective surfaces offer a variety of experiences, depending upon one’s perspective, the weather and the time of day. The sculpture does, in fact, allow for contemplation of clouds, as well as an incredible panorama of the architecture along Michigan Avenue. Nighttime viewing offers different rewards, in terms of color and light. The 110-ton structure manages to appear almost weightless, in part because it only touches the ground in two places.
            Acclaimed as both an aesthetic achievement and an engineering feat, the 168 stainless steel plates used to construct the surface required 2200 lineal feet of continuous welding. Not surprisingly, Cloud Gate received “The Extraordinary Welding Award” from the American Welding Society. The realization of this piece required an extraordinary collaborative effort, including the contributions of engineer Christopher Hornzee-Jones, Ethan Silva of Performance Structures, the company that fabricated the plates, Roark Frankel, supervisor of the project, and MTH industries, which assembled the piece. Additionally, the final price tag for the project was nearly four times the initial estimate of $6 million, but the entire cost of the work was covered by corporate and private donations. 

The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons, 1974
Marc Chagall
10 South Dearborn Street

Born into an Hasidic Jewish family in Vitebsk (in present-day Belarus), Marc Chagall (1887-1985) studied art in St. Petersburg, Russia before moving to Paris, where he lived from 1910 to 1914. During his time in Paris, Chagall absorbed the influences of Symbolism, Fauvism and Cubism and combined them with his own childhood memories of Jewish shtetl life and mysticism to create dreamy, fantastic images that defied artistic conventions regarding space and perspective. Chagall returned to Russia in 1914 and, as a supporter of the October Revolution, in 1917 he was appointed Commissar for Fine Arts in Vitebsk. He returned to Paris in 1923 and became a French citizen in 1937. As a Jew and an artist whose work was ridiculed by the Nazis, Chagall found it necessary to leave Vichy France and he found safe haven in the United States between 1941-48.
            Although best known as a painter, working in oils, watercolors and gouaches, Chagall has also produced ceramics, stained glass and, as seen in this work, mosaics. Regarding the title of this piece, Chagall explained, “In my mind, the four seasons represent human life, both physical and spiritual, at its different stages.” Using a model created by Chagall in his studio in France, a skilled mosaicist was sent to Chicago to install the 128 separate panels, featuring 250 different colors, and then join them together with additional glass and stone fragments. The finished piece is 14 feet high, 10 feet wide and 70 feet long. Imagery includes symbols associated with his earlier works, including birds, fish, flowers, suns and lovers, all references to memories of simple, village life, interspersed with sunbursts and city skylines. Chagall’s signature “floating” figures and the absence of a consistent ground line contribute to the otherworldliness of the scenes even as they refer to quotidian activities associated with rural and urban life. As is the case with “the Picasso,” viewers already familiar with the artists’ earlier works are able to recognize each as typical of their style, even if the scale and materials have changed.
            Chagall arrived 2 weeks before the unveiling and realized that he needed to make adjustments to the areas featuring the Chicago skyline, as he had based them upon his memory of the city from 30 years before! The work was presented as a gift to the city of Chicago on September 27, 1974 and the protective glass canopy was added after renovations in the mid-1990s.
            Another major work by Chagall, the America Windows from 1977, is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago and were made in commemoration of the Bicentennial and as a reflection of Chagall’s gratitude for the safety and religious tolerance that he found during his stay in the U.S. during the 1940s.


Lions, 1893 (recast in bronze 1894)
Edward Kemeys
West entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue at Adams Street

            Part of more than thirty-five plaster models of native American wildlife produced by Edward Kemeys (1843-1907) and A. P. Proctor for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the plaster versions of these lions originally flanked the entrance to the Fine Arts Palace (now the Museum of Science and Industry). Bronze recastings of Kemeys’ two Bison from the Exposition are featured at the east entrance to the formal garden at Humboldt Park.
            After viewing the Lions at the 1893 Fair, Mrs. Henry Field donated funds to have them recast in bronze and installed at the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago building in Grant Park. Serving as both a sensitive portrayal of wild animals and an example of guardian figures, in the tradition of Assyrian lamassu and the Egyptian Sphinx, these lions are among the best-known and most-beloved sculptures in the city. Kemeys, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, explained that the south lion was “attracted by something in the distance which he is closely watching” and that the north lion was “ready for a roar and a spring.”