Monday, August 23, 2010

Lincoln in Norway

I came across the above photo on eBay not long ago and despite visiting every imaginable Lincoln statue, I could not place this particular work. It looked very familiar but I knew that I had not visited it - yet!
I watched to see if anyone else was bidding on the item. It seemed no one else was interested in the old postcard. My curiosity was really piqued and my mind was clicking through all of the large Lincoln busts I knew of and I still could not come up with the location.
I thought it had to be one of several Lincoln busts I knew but perhaps the monument had been changed in some way and didn't look like this any longer. I concluded that the statue looked like one I had seen in New Milford, CT by Paul Morris. The time period looked about right. The New Milford Lincoln was dedicated in 1912 and the folks in the picture looked from approximately the same era.
The local Historical Society in New Milford told me that the current monument had not changed since 1912. That was a trip down a dead end street.
The owner of the card told me that there were no markings or writing on the card that might indicate where the card came from. Nothing at all. No help from that quarter.
After bending my brain, it suddenly hit me where I had seen the statue before. This bust was identical to two others that I had seen. One is in Geneseo, Illinois and the other is front of the county courthouse in Hillsboro, North Dakota. I have always considered these pieces very fine portraits of Lincoln but they are virtually unknown.

Where was this one?
Suddenly it came to me!

It was almost certainly the original bust of President Lincoln sculpted by the noted North Dakota sculptor Paul Fjelde. Fjelde had been recommended for this commission by sculptor and art historian Lorado Taft.
The bust that had been given to the City of Oslo by the Norwegian-Americans of North Dakota and Minnesota in 1914 to honor the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Norwegian constitution which had been modeled after the U.S. Constitution.

On July 4, 1914 a committee from the United States had travelled to Norway and presented the people of Norway with this bust of Abraham Lincoln. The postcard that I purchased shows some of the dignitaries and others that attended that 1914 dedication ceremony.

I consulted with North Dakota's liaison to the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and sent him a copy of the picture after it came in the mail. He had never seen this image but the state of North Dakota, in its archives, has images from the 1914 ceremony that show the same basic scene .

There is one very interesting aspect to the story that I should mention. It was reported that during the days of the Nazi occupation of Norway, crowds of fearless Norwegians would gather at the Lincoln bust in Oslo's Forgner Park on July 4th in silent protest.

Mystery solved and I didn't even need the History Detectives.

Additional photos of the Lincoln busts by Paul Fjelde in the United States can be found at my photo web site. The Link to the website is at the top of the page on the right.

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Posting

This is the inaugural post of my Lincoln statue, monument and memorial blog.

The title of the blog comes from a word that I have been using when someone asks what we have been up to lately. "We have been out "Lincolning", I will tell them.

For the past 6 years my wife and I have travelled across the United States "Lincolning". We have visited, photographed and documented Lincoln sculptures and memorials in 35 states including Hawaii.

Most recently we took a short, quick trip right after the 4th. of July and ventured out across Illinois to visit a new statue in Marshall,Illinois by an Indiana sculptor named Bill Wolfe and to revisit a piece in Jacksonville, IL. on the campus of Illinois College by sculptors Peter Maxon and Doris parks.

In Quincy, IL, we stopped to see the recently updated site of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate in Washington Park in downtown Quincy. A large bas relief monument by the noted sculptor Lorado Taft was erected in 1936 at the site of the debate.

There are now statues or significant monuments erected at all 7 sites of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The last statue group was erected in Jonesboro, in far southern Illinois, in 2008.

Our Missouri leg took us to Moberly to find an obscure marble Lincoln in a local cemetery and to document a work featuring Lincoln and his favorite son Tad, in front of Kansas City's 1937 art deco inspired City Hall.

In Kansas City, Missouri, in front of the neo-classic City Hall building, stands a statue of Lincoln with favorite son Tad by sculptor Lorenzo Ghiglieri.

Last February, a statue commemorating Abraham Lincoln's little noted week long trip to Kansas, was unveiled in Leavenworth, Kansas. Up the road from Leavenworth and across the river from St. Joseph, Missouri, in the little town of Troy, Kansas, there is a bust of Lincoln across from the county courthouse. On his trip to Kansas, Lincoln made numerous speeches and one of these speeches was given in Troy. It is claimed that Lincoln used this time in Kansas to try out and work on ideas that he would eventually use in his Cooper Union Speech in New York City in February of 1860. It is said that the Cooper Union speech helped make Lincoln president.

Another day, found us in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the west entrance to the capital building, a wonderful statue called Lincoln of Gettysburg by Lincoln Memorial sculptor, Daniel Chester French can be seen. Lincoln is in a thoughtful pose and stands in front of a huge granite monolith on which the words of the Gettysburg address are carved. The photo at the top of this post is a close-up of French's "original" Lincoln statue.

At the other end of a 6 block long boulevard, in front of the Justice and Law Enforcement Building stands a copy of a very controversial Lincoln work by the artist Louis Slobodkin. The original is in Washington DC in a private courtyard of the Department of the Interior Building. The work is called Lincoln the Rail Joiner or Lincoln the Rail Fence Builder.

The state capital building itself features two Lincoln images by noted architectural sculptor and designer Lee Lawrie. Lawrie is perhaps best known for his work in New York City and especially for the statue of 'Atlas' in front of Rockefeller Center.

Lawrie's Lincoln pieces on the Nebraska Capital Building are a large bas relief of the Emacipation and a sculpture of a young Lincoln.

The last state on our trip was Iowa. Iowa contains a large number of Lincoln works. On this ramble through Iowa, Wendy and I found an unusual pair of Lincoln monuments topped with busts of Lincoln that mark a 90 degree turn on the route of the original Lincoln Highway. The two markers are located just north of Scranton in west central Iowa. The markers are known as the Moss Markers after the local farmer that erected them.

Scranton is not far from Jefferson, Iowa where a large full sized statue of Lincoln is located in front of the courthouse. This work, by Granville Hasting, is but one of three copies of this statue. Other copies of this Lincoln work can be found in Cincinnatti, Ohio and in Bunker Hill, Illinois, near Alton, IL. The Jefferson copy is the only one of the three to feature only Lincoln. The Ohio and Illinois pieces are made up of two figures. One being Lincoln and the other a woman, half kneeling, and inscribing upon the pedestal the words, "With Malice Towards None,"

The final statue we visited on our quick Lincolning trip was found in a very small, quaint but out-of-the-way town in northeast Iowa. Clermont, Iowa, is approximately 25 miles west of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin on the Turkey river. The Clermont Lincoln is located in a small park on the north end of the city. This work is a copy of a much more elaborate statue by George Bissell located in Edinburgh, Scotland. The piece in Scotland is made up of two figures. One is the same Lincoln that is seen in Clermont. The second bronze figure is a crouching, freed slave reaching one of his arms up to the Lincoln figure standing above him.

The statue in Clermont does not include the slave figure from the Edinburgh original. Instead, Bissell added four highly detailed bronze relief panels honoring the memory of the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. It is my guess that the bronze panels were added instead of the slave figure for both economic reasons (a second bronze figure would be quite expensive) and because the donors were most interested in honoring the men who fought in the Civil War and not to commemerate the Emancipation of the slaves.

Bissell's bust of Lincoln from this statue is quite popular and oft times can be found for sale on the Internet.

Next blog post - Lincoln goes to Norway!