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Art Getaway to Daniel Chester French studio reopening at Stockbridge

Closed for the past year and a half for major repairs and renovation, the historic study of sculptor Daniel Chester French was reopened this weekend in Stockbridge, and was celebrated with the opening of a new show by photographer Artist–in-residence Julie McCarthy.

American Indian Man for the Parkman Memorial. The Daniel Chester French studio at Glendale, MA, near Stockbridge
©Stillman Rogers Phography 2003
The Daniel Chester French studio at Glendale, MA, near Stockbridge
©Stillman Rogers Photography 2003

French, a 19th century rock star

It is a bit of a pun, but Daniel Chester French was at the very top of his profession as a sculptor in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A native New Englander, he was born in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1850 and completed his first bust when he was 19 years old. He studied sculpture in the United States and in Paris. As an active New Englander during the half century that saw citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, leading the intellectual revolution, he became one of them and friends with many of them.

Daniel Chester French enjoyed success early on in his career. In 1875, at the age of 25, he was commissioned to create the Minuteman statue that stands at the end of Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. In 1878, he was awarded contracts for sculpture on the Post Office in Boston, the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office in Philadelphia and the Customs House in Saint Louis. In 1883 he created the sculpture of John Harvard in the Harvard Yard in Cambridge.

Chesterwood – a home and studio

Western Massachusetts in the late nineteenth century was still a very rural and peaceful place, where an artist could settle in and concentrate on his work. In 1897 French bought a farm in Glendale, Massachusetts, and set about converting it into a summer home and studio. He already had a home and studio in New York. It was while he was working at Glendale that in 1914, he received the commission for and completed the work on the seated Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. This was not the first Lincoln he had created. In 1909 he was commissioned to create the standing Lincoln to stand in front of the Statehouse in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A visit to Chesterwood

Glendale is close to Stockbridge, in western Massachusetts, and the site includes the historic home, the studio that he used from 1897 until his death in 1931, and extensive gardens that surround the buildings. It is not only a look into the personal life of a great sculptor, but a glimpse into his artistic life as you see his art in the place where it was created. Among the works at the studio are the original plaster model for the Standing Lincoln and a pair of plaster panels that he created for the Francis Parkman Memorial in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. The subjects were an American Indian Woman and an American Indian Man, and plaster studies for both figures are at Chesterwood. Chesterwood is a member of Historic Artists Homes and Studios.

Details on Chesterwood

Admission to Chesterwood is $16.50 adults ($8.25 for NTHP Members); $8.25 for children ages 13 to 17; free for children under 13 Chesterwood is open May 24 through June 30, Thursday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; July 1 through August 31, daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; September 1 through September 30, Thursday to Monday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; October 1 through 13, open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Julie McCarty show, An Oasis of Beauty: Photographs by Julie McCarthy, will be on view through October 13.

Getting to Glendale

From Boston, take the Mass pike, I-90, west almost to the New York border, about 132 miles. Take exit 2 and follow Route 102 west. At Stockbridge, stay on West Main Street which becomes Glendale Middle Road. Ignore Route 102 as it takes off to the north.

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