Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bronze Sculptures at the Museum

Although the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art’s American and European art collections are best known for their paintings and works on paper, the Museum does have a small but excellent group of representational bronze sculptures on display in the hallway between the lobby and the American Gallery.

Hermon Atkins MacNeil is probably best known today for his public monuments of American heroes such as George Washington and his design of the 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter. However, the Paris-trained sculptor focused almost entirely on Native American subjects from about 1891 to 1910. His Chief Multnomah (about 1904) depicts a man once thought to be legendary; in fact he was a powerful 18th century leader in the area that is known today as Portland, Oregon. This image is entirely speculative, as no portraits of the man himself exist today. Our small bronze is related to one of the two figures in a lifesize sculpture known as The Coming of the White Man which is situated on a hill in Portland, Oregon, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge by which Lewis and Clark had come through the Rockies. MacNeil was also an influential teacher of sculpture at several institutions in New York City.

The Hungarian-born Louis-Paul Jonas began his career as a taxidermist, and then trained at the New York Academy of Design under sculptor Herman Atkins MacNeil. His Chief Eagle Head depicts a Sioux who was a member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Jonas met him in Denver, which was Buffalo Bill’s home base, and arranged for a sitting. Eagle Head came by his name because of his deep set eyes and keen sense of observation, according to a letter from Jonas in the Museum files.

Anna Hyatt Huntington, like Louis Jonas, was a student of Hermon Atkins MacNeil in New York. She is best-known for her carefully researched animal sculptures. Huntington’s studies of animal anatomy and behavior are evident in her intimate look at an everyday event in a horse’s life, Feeding Time. This work was produced early in her career, when she was only 21 years old. Her work is very much in the academic vein of representational sculpture, rather than in the expressive mode that was more popular in Europe at the time. At the early age of 31 she completed her equestrian sculpture of Joan of Arc, a literally monumental accomplishment. Though troubled by tuberculosis after 1927, she would go on to create medals, small sculptures, and public monuments for nearly 70 more years. She continued to work in lighter media (such as aluminum) and to explore more modernist modes almost until her death at 97.

The academically-trained French sculptor Ary Jean Léon Bitter was a product of the École des Beaux-Arts in Marseille, France. His early works, such as the Museum’s See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, tend to the representational, while his later works exhibit an fluid Art Deco tendency. He specialized in animal imagery and languid female figures in bronze, though he occasionally worked at a monumental scale as well.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free; please call ahead to ensure that a docent will be available for tour groups. For information about LRMA exhibitions and programs, call (601) 649-6374 or check our website at www.LRMA.org

Jill R. Chancey, PhD
LRMA Curator

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