I once defined “talent” for creating medals as “empathy, repertoire and skill.” An artist needs a full capacity of each of these characteristics to create the models the firm requires to make the outstanding medallic art that it is noted for over the last century.
Empathy is the feeling the artist has for the subject of his intended medal. Here I must give credit to my mentor at Medallic Art Company, its long-time art director and vice president, Julius Lauth. Julius taught me most of what I know about medallic art.
Julius greatest contribution was to select the artist with the greatest empathy for any new medal job. He had intimate knowledge of, perhaps, two to three hundred sculptors who could create medallic models at any one time. He knew the sculptors so well that he could recite personal dossiers on each of these artists in his mind.
If the medal to be made was, say, a Methodist medal, he knew a Methodist sculptor. If it was an African-American subject, he knew a Black sculptor. He knew this intuitively. By selecting the artist with the greatest empathy towards the subject, he knew that sculptor would produce the most inspired and knowledgeable creation.
Repertoire is the total experiences of any person. This includes both the total experience within the art field, in addition to life’s total experiences. Having a greater repertoire gives a seasoned artisan an advantage over a freshly minted fine art school graduate.
All those years of experience that lodge in the artist’s mind help guide him in what can be done and what can’t, what should be done, what is pushing the envelope, and what is fad, or fashionable, or exactly what would be the best expression of his talented imagination.
The same holds true for everything the artist has experienced away from the art world — his travels, the books he has read, the conversations he has had with knowledgeable people. All these accumulated exposures meld into his repertoire that he brings to each new medallic challenge.
Skill is the proficiency in the task at hand. Skill can be learned but doing the task repeatedly generates a better end product. The hand is steadier; the mind is surer. Here again experience is paramount. A seasoned artist is more skillful than when he began.
Why diversity is so desirable. For the first 75 years of Medallic Art Company’s existence, the firm never had a “staff artist,” nowadays termed a “factory artist.” Because this was such a firm policy the company had to turn to outside artists – to the two to three hundred sculptors who could produce medallic models at any one time.
Because of this every medal looked different. By using a multitude of artists the total medallic product of the firm bore that diversity. There existed a wide range of styles in the firm’s showcases. Obviously the subjects different, but so did each artist’s own treatment of each medal he created.
Had a factory artist been assigned job after job, they would tend to become similar. No one artist could have created a different style and technique for each new medal. By assigning every new medal to a talented outside artist Medallic Art achieved the most attractive desirable medallic art!
In recording the biographical details of more than 3500 artists of American coins and medals for my databank intended for the internet, I have noted their professions other than engraver, designer or sculptor. I learned that only a small number of artists derived their full income and their only profession as coin and medal artists.
All others perused one or more other professions. A significant number of coin and medal artists were also educators, teaching art, or sculpture, or similar subjects. Another popular adjunct profession was jeweler.
Obviously most of these other professions are art oriented: sculptor, painter, illustrator, wax modeler, portraitist, miniaturist, cartoonist, graphic artist, seal engraver, banknote (or steel) engraver, wood carver, ceramicist, industrial designer and such.
Some professions were completely outside the art field. In a broad view these other professions may have had some influence on the artist’s coin or medal design (providing them that rare insight or empathy for any item they created). Or, it can be considered to add to those life experiences so beneficial to any designer of a coin or medal.
What might be of interest are some the more unusual ways in which medalists supported themselves while also creating coins and medals. Listed below are some of the professions I have found and listed in my Databank of American Artists:
|Actor (film)||Roger Nobel Burnham (1876-1962)|
|Architect||Hammatt Billings (1816-1874)|
|Architect||Paul Philippe Crete (1876-1945)|
|Architect||Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924)|
|Architect||Thomas Rogers Kimball (1862-1934)|
|Army Officer||Aymar Embury (1880-1966)|
|Army Officer||Seth Eastman (1808-1875)|
|Army Officer||Ralph Townsend Heard (1895-1993)|
|Army Officer||Edgar Erskine Hume (1889-1952)|
|Army Officer||Robert N. Ives (ca1920-2006)|
|Army Officer||John Rogers M. Taylor (1865-1949)|
|Art Dealer||Jules Charbneau (1883-1968)|
|Awning Manufacturer||William F. Scheible (active 1855-60)|
|Branding Iron Manufacturer||James M. Murdock Junior (b 1839, active 1865-1902)|
|Botanist||Frederick LeRoy Sargent (1863-1928)|
|Buttonmaker Manufacture||Hiram Washington Hayden (1820-1904)|
|Calico Printer||Thomas Welland (c1806- fl 1850-59)|
|Candymaker||Theodore J. Harbach (fl 1876-77)|
|Ceramicist||Russell Gerry Crook (1869-1955)|
|Ceramicist||Jean Baptiste Nini (1717-1786)|
|Ceramicist||Adelaide Toombs Sundlin (1915- )|
|Christmas Tree Ornament Mfgr||Theodore J. Harbach (fl 1876-77)|
|Clockmaker, Watchmaker||Edward Duffield (1730-1805)|
|Clockmaker||Henry Voigt (1744-1814)|
|Corset Manufacturer||William Rosenthal (1882-1958)|
|Dauguerrotype Case Mfgr||Alfred J. Henning (active 1855-1868)|
|Dentist||Theron S. Hitchcock (1830-1918)|
|Draftsman||Vincent Glinsky (1895-1975)|
|Educator||Many in both 19th & 20th Centuries|
|Gynocologist||Robert Latou Dickinson (1861-1950)|
|Heraldic Artist||Nathaniel Hurd (1730-1777)|
|Historian||John Baer Stoudt (1878-1944)|
|Industrial Designer||Raymond Loewy (1893-1986)|
|Industrial Designer||Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960)|
|Inventor||Darvin Ellis (1807-1884)|
|Inventor||Joseph Jenckes (1602-1683)|
|Jack-of-all-Trades||Abel Buell (1741/42-1822)|
|Jeweler||Many in 19thy Century|
|Justice of the Peace||Benjamin C. True (fl 1832-79)|
|Librarian||George Seymour Godard (1865-1936)|
|Lithographer||Vincent Glinsky (1895-1975)|
|Marine Officer||Charles Heywood (1839-1915)|
|Merchant||Manuel Barrea (active 1818)|
|Metallurgist||Samuel Higley (ca 1687-1737)|
|Milliner (Straw Hat Mfgr)||Gotfried Mass (active 1840-47)|
|Missionary (Methodist)||Hamilton Campbell (active 1849-61)|
|Mormon Religious Leader||John Taylor (1808-1887)|
|Museum (Art) Official||Joseph Veach Noble (1920-2007)|
|Museum (Planetarium) Official||Helmut K. Wimmer (1925-2006)|
|Philanthropist||John Frederick Lewis (1860-1932)|
|Philanthropist||George Dupont Pratt (1869-1935)|
|Photographer||Arthur C. Morgan (1904-1994)|
|Photographer||Neila Kun (1951- )|
|Physician||Hannibal De Bellis (1894-1976)|
|Physician||John S. Ormsby (1806-1876)|
|Physician||Townsend William Thorndike (1872-1929)|
|Police Commissioner||Ralph Joseph Menconi (1915-1972)|
|Priest, Catholic||Anthony Lauck (1908-2001)|
|Saloon Keeper||Frank Donnelly (1870-1919)|
|Schoolmaster||Samuel Higley (ca 1687-1737)|
|Schoolmistress||Clara P. Hill (1870-1935)|
|Stencil Manufacturer||Many 19th Century Artists|
|Surgeon||Edward Mitchell Hanrahan (1892-1952)|
|Topographical Draftsman||Joseph Goldsborough Bruff (1804-1889)|
|Topographical Engineer||Washington Hood (1808-1840)|
|Town Clerk||Clarles B. Merrill (active 1876-80)|
|Typefounder||Abel Buel (1741/42-1822)|
|Typefounder||John Reich (1768-1833)|
|Wellsinker||Henry Biggins (active 1844-52)|