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Hermon Atkins MacNeil

 (1866 - 1947)
Hermon Atkins MacNeil was active/lived in New York, Massachusetts.  Hermon MacNeil is known for statue and monument sculpture, medallic art.

Hermon Atkins MacNeil

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Hermon Atkins MacNeil
Born in Everett, Massachusetts, Hermon Atkins MacNeil became a well-known sculptor of Indian subjects, commemorative works and medals including the designing of the medal of award for the 1915 Pan American Exposition in San Francisco and the quarter dollar for the United States government. He was also a teacher. His sculptures are in many locations including the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC, the State Capitol Buildings in Connecticut and Missouri, and the City Park in Portland, Oregon.

He studied at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston. Until 1888, he was the first drawing instructor at Cornell University and taught at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He then went to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the Julian Academy. In 1891, he returned to the United States as assistant to Philip Martiny on architectural sculpture for the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago.

MacNeil taught at the Art Institute of Chicago for three years and made several trips West to study Indians first hand for his sculpture because he did not like to rely solely on studio models. From 1896 to 1899, he was in Rome on a Rinehart Scholarship for sculptors, and during this time he created one of his most famous works, "The Sun Vow," for which he won a Silver Medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900.

Just before World War II, he designed the United States quarter dollar. Later in his career, he switched emphasis from Indian subjects to monumental works, primarily celebrating national heroes.

Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art (1999)

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery
Hermon Atkins MacNeil was one of the sculptors most influential in winning worldwide recognition of the American Indian as a valid artistic theme. His statues depicting the Indian became an introduction for Americans and Europeans into a truly American subject matter for the arts.

Born in Massachusetts, MacNeil received his formal training in the arts at the Normal Art School in Boston in 1886. Upon graduation in 1886 he moved to Cornell, New York and taught modeling for three years at the university. Seeking continued education, he followed the path of many artist of his day and left for Europe in 1888. In Paris he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the Julien Academy.

In 1891, he was back in the United States working as an assistant on the architectural sculpture for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Settling in Chicago, MacNeil taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and opened a studio there where he began his work depicting the American Indian. His first introduction to the subject came through Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. During the Worlds Fair, Buffalo Bill's troupe performed and MacNeil took every opportunity to see the show and sketch the ceremonies and rituals of Indian life. Inspired by the subjects, he made subsequent trips to the southwest to see the Indians in their element.

Back in Europe in 1895, MacNeil was in Rome having won the Rinehart Roman Scholarship. While living there, all expenses paid, he put into bronze several myths and dances of the Indian tribes he visited while in the states. His first creation was the Return of the Snakes, depicting a nude Indian running through the prickly-pear cactus carrying two handfuls of rattlesnakes. An Indian priest, having used the snakes in a tribal ceremony to pray for rain to save the crops, is running down the mesa to free the snakes so that they may convey the prayers for rain to heaven.

At the turn of the century MacNeil was back in the states, bringing with him his fame from achievements in Europe. For the next fifteen years he focused on the many commissions he received for exhibitions throughout the states. His works were entered in to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (1901); the Charleston Exposition in South Carolina (1902); the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (1904); the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon (1905); and the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco (1915).

A highly successful artist, MacNeil died at his home on Long Island Sound where he had worked for forty-seven years.

Sources include:
L. Taft, "The History of American Sculpture", New York, 1903, pp. 439-440
Patricia Broder, "Bronzes of the American West", New York, 1974, p. 88

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V
Hermon Atkins MacNeil (February 27, 1866 - October 2, 1947) was an American sculptor born in Everett, Massachusetts.

He was an instructor in industrial art at Cornell University from 1886 to 1889, and was then a pupil of Henri M. Chapu and Alexandre Falguière in Paris. Returning to America, he aided Philip Martiny (1858-1927) in the preparation of sketch models for the World's Columbian Exposition, and in 1896 he won the Rinehart scholarship, passing four years (1896-1900) in Rome.

In 1906 he became a National Academician. His first important work was The Moqui Runner, which was followed by A Primitive Chant, and The Sun Vow, all figures of the North American Indian. A Fountain of Liberty, for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and other Indian themes came later; his Agnese and his Beatrice, which are two fine busts of women, and his nude statuettes, which echo his time spent in Rome and Paris, also deserve mention. One of his principal works is the sculpture in Columbus, Ohio, in honor of President William McKinley. In 1909 he won in competition a commission for a large soldiers' and sailors' monument in Albany, New York.

Perhaps his best known work is as the designer of the Standing Liberty quarter, which as minted from 1916 to 1930, and carries his initial to the right of the date.

He also made Justice, the Guardian of Liberty on the east pediment of the United States Supreme Court building

One of his last works was the Pony Express statue dedicated in 1940 in St. Joseph, Missouri.


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About  Hermon Atkins MacNeil

Born:  1866 - Everett, Massachusetts
Died:   1947 - College Point, New York
Known for:  statue and monument sculpture, medallic art

Essays referring to
Hermon Atkins MacNeil

San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915