The Life of Daniel Chester French - Journey Into Fame

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The Life of Daniel Chester JOURNEY INTO FAME MARGARET FRENCH CRESSON WITH A FOREWORD BY WALTER PRICHARD EATON HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS Cambridge, Massachusetts 1947 COPYRIGHT, 1947 BY THE PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Daniel Chester French, by Margaret French Cresson, Hall of American Artists, New York University For Penn IN SWEET REMEMBRANCE OF THE HAPPY YEARS FOREWORD IT WAS ONCE my good fortune to live for several years in Stockbridge when Daniel Chester French was one of the most distinguished and best loved of its summer residents. His daughter, the author of this book, was a gay and highly personable young lady at an earlier point of history I sus pect she would have been described as dashing who fre quently converted her fathers large studio into a scene of revelry, with the work-in-progress shoved into a corner un der a sheet, and the guests in fancy costumes. Perhaps she will forgive me if I confess that I was not the only person a bit surprised when the news got around that Peggy French was herself working hard at sculpture. Do you I asked her father, somewhat fatuously no doubt, criticize Margarets work In his soft, gentle voice he replied, Freely. That settled everything, including me, with true Yankee brevity. I was again a victim when I was exhibiting to Mr. French a new garden I had fashioned. In this garden was a wall foun tain, the water spouting from a marble replica of a Greek mask of tragedy. When I say a replica, I mean that you could recognize the intention. I cut it myself from a piece of marble secured from the local tombstone yard, and took great satis faction, indeed pride, in the fact that visitors unpromptedknew what it was meant to be. Mr. French said I, standing beside this work of my hands, Until I carved this I didnt know I was a sculptor. viii FOREWORD Do you now said he. Mr. Frenchs wit was like that He could be almost as laconic as the late Mr Coohdge His speech was not nasal, but cultivated and soft, yet it could be dry and shafted like an arrow But I venture to say he never hurt anyone Before the shaft was loosed there was always the play of a smile around his eyes. He may have pricked a bubble, but instantly you knew it for a bubble and smiled, too. That was not because he was a man of keen perceptions and ripe judgment, or one who used his eminence to strike from, his humor was kind and sympathetic, not prankish or self-exhibitionary It was an expression of his genial relationship to his fellows, always with the mutual understanding that a sham is a sham I have often regretted that the discrepancy in our ages as well as my own ignorance of his problems as an artist made me hesitate to attempt any talk with Mr. French about his work There were certain questions I should like especially to have put to him because, difficult as it was to realize as you talked with this alert, active artist well into the twentieth century, Mr. French actually stemmed directly out of the Concord of Alcott and Emerson. His first major statue, and still one of his best known, came into being on the same spot as Emersons shot heard round the world and re-celebrated the same event. His Minute Man stands by the rude bridge and the youth, scarce out of his teens, who made it, though he went from Concord into larger fields, went with some precious heritage, surely, of the peculiar spiritual alert ness ofthat community and of its dominant genius, Emerson, who of course was young Dannys friend Could even he himself have told the relation of this heritage to his art Per haps not, but I have always regretted that I was too diffident to inquire...

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