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 John Rogers  (1829 - 1904)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut/Massachusetts      Known for: genre and figure sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
John Rogers
from Auction House Records.
The School Examination
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, John Rogers became a highly sought after sculptor and modeler of figures and genre subjects in the mid 19th century. He was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Northampton and Roxbury, Massachusetts. He spent his early life as a clerk in New England, New York City, and the Middle West, living in Missouri from 1848 to 1857.

As early as 1849, Rogers began modelling with clay, but it was 1858 when he decided to become a professional sculptor. He took his training in Paris and Rome where he associated with prominent American sculptors Harriet Hosmer and Richard Greenough. However, the dominant style of Neo-Classicism* taught in Italy was not to his liking because it was too restrained and formal and did not tell the stories he had in his mind to tell through bronze. So he gave up sculpting and returned to America where he lived briefly in Roxbury and then went to Chicago, where he took a drafting job. But shortly after, he began creating figures that were humorous genre subjects and these received popular attention. His first attention-getting work was Checker Players, the first of what became known as the Rogers Groups*.

Deciding to continue modeling small genre figures, he moved to New York City, and in 1859, opened a studio where he produced more than 80 genre pieces that became known as "Rogers Groups". Over "80,000 casts have been made" (Opitz 338). These were very small, 13 to 22 inches in height, highly detailed genre pieces, executed between 1859 and 1894, and reflected the sculptors talent with realistic anatomy and sharp observation of details of clothing and accessories. Many of the pieces had Civil War subjects such as The Slave Auction (1859) and Wounded to the Rear-One More Shot (1864). A nearly complete collection of the "Rogers Groups" is held by the New York Historical Society.

One of the keys to Rogers' success was pricing his work modestly enough, usually ten to fifteen dollars each, so that they were affordable for the general public. He made them easy to acquire by developing a pioneer method for his era--a mail-order catalog system.

Another key to his success with the "Rogers Groups" was striking a public sentiment chord with his Civil War subjects that appealed to patriotism and popular sentiments about the horrors of slavery and military battles. Many of his "Rogers Group" sculptures featured genre scenes of everyday living, especially humorous aspects of small-town people and circumstances such as events in homes, school houses, or parsonages. Examples are The Checker Players, (1859), and Weighing the Baby (1876).

Genre subjects were only one part of Rogers' creativity. In addition to the "Rogers Groups", he also sculpted an equestrian statue of General Reynolds, which is in front of the Philadelphia City Hall. Some of his more ambitious works were based on Western literature such as Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving, stories from Faust, and from Shakespeare's plays. The tone of these works was lighthearted and not heavy drama. He also completed a few small portrait sculptures including depictions of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Henry Ward Beecher.

John Rogers died in 1904.

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Glenn Opitz, Dictionary of American Sculptors

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John Rogers is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Civil War Art

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