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 Frank Edwin Elwell  (1858 - 1922)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut      Known for: commemorative monument and portrait sculpture

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Francis Edwin Elwell is primarily known as Frank Edwin Elwell

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Ad Code: 4
Francis Elwell
from Auction House Records.
The Young Cleopatra
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Mentored by author Louisa May Alcott and raised by maternal grandparents,  Frances Elwell became a sculptor of portraits and public monuments.  His parents died when he was young, and his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Elisha Jones Farrar, living in Concord, Massachusetts, introduced him to close friends and neighbors including Alcott, Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson---all whom became good friends of the young Elwell. Through Louisa Alcott, he met Daniel Chester French, and became his assistant on sculpture groups. Also the Alcott family, French and several other Boston patrons paid for Elwell to study in Paris, where he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in May 1882. He returned to New York in 1885 and maintained a studio there.

Elwell was a member of the National Sculpture Society and the National Art Club and exhibited with those associations as well as with the Boston Art Club, the Paris Salon, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

In 1886, he became an exhibiting member of the Society of American Artists, and in 1886 and 1887, he taught modeling classes at the National Academy of Design. He also served as Curator of Ancient and Modern Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1903 to 1905.  In this job he had conflicts with many sculptors and he and this position were terminated at the Museum. He became increasingly isolated from public life, had a highly publicized contentious divorce, and after 1907 was unproductive as a sculptor.  His last major work was the allegorical groups, Rome and Greece, for the facade of the New York Custom House.

Among other sculpture by Elwell is the monument Seventh Rhode Island Infantry Memorial at the Vicksburg, Mississippi National Military Park. His Union soldier in this piece was part of the park's commemoration of Civil War heroes, and is linked to the tradition of doughboys, solitary sculpted figures representative of the bravery of many soldiers. His sculpture is also at the Battle of Gettysburg Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; the cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the Old Cathedral in Edam, Holland.

Elwell died in 1922 in Darien, Connecticut.

Sources include:
Thayer Tolles, American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume One
Donald Martin Reynolds, Masters of American Sculpture
Peter Hasting Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Francis was first taught by Louisa May Alcott's sister who went by the name of May Alcott. She was a professional painter herself.  She also taught Daniel Chester French, who was only 10 years older than Elwell.  As far as I can determine, Elwell was not a student of French's although they shared a studio early in Elwell's career and they both worked on sculpture on the Alexander Hamilton Custom House at 1 Bowling Green in NYC.  One of Elwell's greatest sculptures is "Charles Dickens and Little Nell" which is located in Clark Park, Philadelphia.  It received the gold medal at the World's Columbia Exposition in 1893 in Chicago.

Elwell often signed his works with F. E. Elwell or F. Edwin Elwell.

Submitted by researcher Linda M. Blythe

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