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The Lincoln Memorial, executed toward the end of French’s career with architect Henry Bacon, reflects the expansion of the role of the artist and the architect that blossomed during the “City Beautiful” movement, a time when a philosophy of architecture and urban planning promoted monumental grandeur.
Beginning in 1915, French made at least four models for the seated Abraham Lincoln. For research, he drew upon Mathew Brady’s photographic portrait and Leonard Volk’s life casts of the president’s face and hands. While the Memorial was under construction, French brought photographic enlargements of the model to the site and, along with Bacon, decided that nineteen feet was the appropriate size for the statue. French made corrections on his six-foot plaster model before it was sent to the Piccirilli brothers’ carving studio in the Bronx, New York. The carving from twenty-eight blocks of Georgia marble took over a year, with French himself making the final adjustments.
The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1922. Originally proposed two years after Lincoln’s assassination, the memorial to the “Savior of the Union” had taken half a century to realize. Each year, millions visit the Lincoln Memorial, walking up a great flight of stairs into an immense temple. There, they confront an enormous seated marble figure radiating dignity, wisdom, and gravitas.6
Visit the Lincoln Memorial.
Listen to Susan Stamberg on NPR’s Morning Edition: Hands Of An Artist: Daniel French’s Lincoln Memorial; December 23, 2009.
Learn more about the Piccirilli Studio where the Lincoln statue was carved in marble.
Background photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credits: Laura Wolf; Carol Boughrum; Shutterstock