When Medallic Art Company was located in New York City, one-half block from the United Nations Headquarters on the East Side of Manhattan, sculptors and clients often came to our two-story building. They delivered models, or came to talk about pending work.
It was a relaxed time. Often these people chatted with workers in addition to the salesmen or management they came to see. My office was off the showroom so it was easy for a visitor to stick his head in my office to say “Hi.” I enjoyed talking with these highly talented – and successful – people.
The first year I was employed at the firm, my office was behind a door with two of the salesmen, and a couple of secretaries. I was often called upon to meet with one of these people, or their party, to engage in conversation or answer their questions until the art director Julius Lauth or a salesman, or president Bill Louth, became available.
I would go back to my desk and couldn’t resist opening my copy of Who’s Who In America to read how the person to which I spoke was listed. “Wow” I thought. That person is famous! All the sculptors seemed to be listed. Often a client was the head of some foundation, or the sponsor of some noted medal.
Once I was charged with taking famed artist Andy Warhol on a plant tour. He was commissioned to create a medal and wanted to learn how medals were made. I came to find the more famous a person was, the more pleasant the conversation became. And I did like to talk about medals and medallic art.
Many sculptors stand out in my mind. Robert Weinman was one. He was in the office frequently. He was the son of famed sculptor Adolph Weinman, who was one of the first sculptors that Medallic Art Company founders Henri and Felix Weil worked with in 1909. Bob Weinman carried on the family tradition and talent as a top sculptor, despite the fact his father didn’t want either one of his two sons to be sculptors, but both Robert and Howard Weinman did.
Ralph Menconi was another frequent visitor. His studio was in New York City across town and he could walk to our plant. He was such prodigious artist, he could make a pair of models in less than a week. He would deliver these to Julius Lauth, they were always “letter perfect” and never needed any touchup to sharpen detail or improve some relief.
Albino Manca was very distinguished, his designs and models were surperb. He had a studio in lower Manhattan, it was more museum than workshop atelier.
Karen Worth came often to the office. Always a delight, she was always dressed as formal and as perfect as her bas-relief models.
Sculptors – I could list dozens more – always liked to examine the medals we had on exhibit in the showcases. These had a variety of styles and subjects, all created by a wide universe of previous medalists. By studying these, artists learned – or at least imagined the technique – of how the original artist accomplished a feature on the model to be rendered into the final medal.
An accomplished medalist, apparently, never stops learning.
The exhibit of the Society of Medalists, however, mounted on two large panels in that New York City showroom that attracted the most attention. And rightly so, for here was the distillation of the major medallic talent of the entire 20th century of American medallic art.
The artists of this medal series were the top of this rare fraternity, those sculptors who could render an idea, a concept, into a three-dimensional model, complete with symbolism and detail to be reduced to the size of a palm of your fist, hand-held miniature sculpture. It was also appealing to view the variety of patinas, each medal bore a different color patina (until the full spectrum of these had be repeated again). But the names of the artists who prepared the issues of the Society of Medalists read like a who’s who of American sculpture of the 20th century. If I had to rank them somewhat in order of fame – a difficult and rather subjective chore – this would be my designation of the top twenty-five artists:
- Paul Manship
- Herbert Adams
- Adolph Weinman
- Malvina Hoffman
- Anthony di Francisci
- John Flanagan
- James Earle Fraser
- Laura Gardin Fraser
- Anna Hyatt Huntington
- Lorado Taft
- Carl Paul Jennewein
- Marcel Jovine
- Robert Tait MacKenzie
- Robert Weinman
- Ralph Menconi
- Chester Beach
- Alexander Calder
- Joseph A. Coletti
- Donald De Lue
- Edward R. Grove
- Walker Hancock
- Lee Lawrie
- Berthold Nebel
- Bruce Moore
Two more American medalists-artists of the 20th century whose names are missing from this list are the greatest American sculptor of all, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and, of lesser stature, Victor David Brenner – both artists noted for their American coin creations – had both died before the Society of Medalists began in 1930.
But it should be well noted that both these artists worked with Medallic Art Company founders Henri and Felix Weil, before they died: Saint-Gaudens for his Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Medal of 1905 and the Benjamin Franklin Bicentennial Medal of 1906 (see Saint-Gaudens Medals Made By Henri Weil of Medallic Art Co.) before his death in 1907 and more than half of Brenner’s medals before he died in 1924.
Medallic Art Company supported the Society of Medalists – even when it may not have been profitable to do so – but it was a dedication to the art that drove the firm to carry forth this series for more than sixty years. In addition to the two dozen medalists named above, nearly a hundred more were drafted into the fold to exhibit their best medallic creations. There were few rules, just create your best design and render that into a medallic model. Show us your best! 124 artists did just that.
So it can be stated Medallic Art Company reproduced the medallic creations of every major American bas-relief sculptor of the 20th century. Without exception.
That statement should be embedded in the mind of every employee, everyone in the sculpture field, and everyone who comes in contact with a medal made by the firm. No other firm, not even the national Mint at Philadelphia, can come close to that record of sculptural achievement.
The heritage of American medallic art has been advanced by no greater force in America than of the firm founded by two sculptural assistants, Henri and Felix Weil, and thrust into prominence by the Trees family, Clyde Curle Trees, his widow, Frances Kimmerle Trees, and Clyde’s nephew, William Trees Louth.
For the 80 years in which these five art advocates have controlled the company, American medallic art has risen to the prominence unsurpassed in this hemisphere and is on par with the great art elsewhere in the world and the firm is an equal with any similar medallic organization in Europe. Par excellance. Interest in the past issues of the Society of Medalists is at a high point among collectors and art enthusiasts at the present. With proper planning and management this could be a viable new venture to satisfy many hungry desires.
Fame among clients. We should also mention the reputation of the clients of Medallic Art Company. Among the firm’s list of customers of this rare form of art for business or award recognition can be found the top Fortune Five Hundred Firms, the top universities, trade associations and foundations.
Fame, it has been said is fleeting. But working with famous clients and sculptors is an everyday occurrence, commonplace at Medallic Art Company.