Archive for the ‘Sculptors’ Category

Thousands of themes are found among the medals made by Medallic Art Company.  MACO has made so many medals, in fact, that collectors recognize they cannot collect them all – although that could be a collectors’ specialty itself — collectors tend to specialize and collect by theme, which they call a topic. Collecting is a very personal thing – every collector chooses his own topic.

The scouting movement, for both boys and girls, has been well represented within the archives of Medallic Art medals. We do not know the creators of all the scouting medals, but some very prominent sculptors are revealed here, Paul Manship and Laura Gardin Fraser top the list. The appeal of scouting collectibles is very strong. Even more so for adults as reflects a happy time in their youth.

Many of these items were ordered continuously and bestowed to youths over a sustained period.  Others, as Jamboree pins, were for only one event, one year. Medallic Art was a major supplier of these medallic items to the two scouting organizations.

A List of Boy Scout and Girl Scout Medals With Selected Photos From Medallic Art Archives

1918-015  Girl Scouts World War I Liberty Loan Medal  1918  Girl Scouts        Paul Howard Manship

1921-034-01  American Girl Scouts Brownie Pin   1921  Girl Scouts of America        Unknown Artist

1921-034-02  American Girl Scouts Cuff Links   1921  Girl Scouts of America       Unknown Artist

1921-034-03  American Girl Scouts Captains Pins   1921  Girl Scouts of America       Unknown Artist

1921-035  Girl Scouts of America Eaglet Emblem   1921  Girl Scouts of America    ½-inch       Unknown Artist

1921-036  Girl Scouts of America Merit Badge  1921  Girl Scouts of America    1-inch        Unknown Artist

1921-037  Girl Scouts of America Life Saving Emblem  1921  Girl Scouts of America  1- x 1¼-inch       Unknown Artist

1922-037  American Girl Scouts Thanks Badge  1922  Girl Scouts of America   Unknown Artist

Girl Scouts of America Tenderfoot Pin

Girl Scouts of America Tenderfoot Pin

1922-038  Girl Scouts of America Tenderfoot Pin  1922  Girl Scouts of America  ¾-inch      Unknown Artist


Girl Scouts Camp Andree Clark Pin (Feather)

1923-005  Girl Scouts Camp Andree Clark Pin (Feather)  1923  Girl Scouts  2¼-inch       Hand Cut Die

1926-040  Boy Scouts Buffalo Charm  1926  Boy Scouts of America                                                     Unknown Artist

1926-041  Boy Scouts Life Saving Honor Medal  1926  Boy Scouts of America      Unknown Artist

1926-042-01  Girl Scouts Camp of the Hills Pin  1926  Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch       Unknown Artist

1926-042-02  Girl Scouts Wind In the Pines Pin 1926   Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1926-042-03  Girl Scouts Camp Longview Pin 1926   Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1926-042-04  Girl Scouts Camp Seven Hills Pin 1926  Girl Scouts of America  5/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1926-043  Boy Scouts Double XX With Eagle Badge  1926  Boy Scouts of America  7/8-inch     Unknown Artist

1927-011  Girl Scouts Camp Edith Macy Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America  1½-inch           Hand Cut Die


Boy Scouts International Jamboree

1927-026  Boy Scouts International Jamboree Medal  1927  Boy Scouts of America 1½-inch          Julio Kilenyi

1927-031  American Girl Scouts Fern Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America                                                Unknown Artist

1927-032  American Girl Scouts Srsc Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America                                                Unknown Artist

1927-033  American Girl Scouts Greenwood Pin  1927  Girl Scouts of America     Unknown Artist

1927-037  American Girl Scouts Maple Leaf Pin   1927  Girl Scouts of America    Unknown Artist

1928-014  Girl Scouts Golden Eaglet Pin  1928  Girl Scouts of America  1 1/8-inch       Laura Gardin Fraser

1928-058  Boy Scouts Life Saving Medal  1928  Boy Scouts of America  1 5/8- x 1 3/8-inch       Unknown Artist

1929-040  Girl Scout Feeding Rabbit Medal  1929  Girl Scouts of America  1¾-inch       Jessie Willing

1929-053  Boy Scouts of America Eagle Badge  1929  Boy Scouts of Am  1½-inch Alexander Phimister Proctor

1929-053-A  Boy Scouts of America ‘Be Prepared’ Bar  1929  Boy Scouts of Am  1½- x ¼-inch    Hand Cut Die

1929-060  American Girl Scout Lapel Pin  1929  Girl Scouts of America                                               Unknown Artist

1929-084  Girl Scouts of America Community Service Medal  1929  Girl Scouts of Am  ¾-inch   Hand Cut Die


Girl Scouts of America Pine Cone Pin

1929-085  Girl Scouts of America Pine Cone Pin  1929  Girl Scouts of America  2- x 5/8-inch     Hand Cut Dies

Society of Medallists Series:

BSA Building Toward Unity, SOM Issue #46

BSA Building Toward Unity, SOM Issue #46

1930-001-046  Issue #46 Eagle Boy Scouts  1952  Society of Medalists  2 7/8-inch           Karl Heinrich Grupp

1930-036  American Girl Scouts Camp Giscowheco Medal   1930  Girl Scouts of America       Unknown Artist

Boy Scouts of America Presidents Badge

Boy Scouts of America Presidents Badge

1930-070-001  Boy Scouts of America Presidents Badge  1930  Boy Scouts of America  1- x 7/8-inch     Unknown  Artist

1930-070-002  Boy Scouts of America Presidents Badge  1930  Boy Scouts of America  1- x 7/8-inch    Unknown Artist

1931-040  Boy Scouts Quartermaster Badge  1931  Boy Scouts of America  1 3/16-inch      Hand Cut Die

1932-018  Beard (Daniel Carter) Medal  1932  Boy Scouts of Kentucky  2½-inch          Jeno Juszko

1933-043-012  Best Goodyear Boy Scout  1933  Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co    1 ½-inch     Unknown artist.

1933-043-024  Best Scout Advisor  1933  Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co    1 ½-inch       Unknown artist.

1944-010-001  Firestone Boy Scout Medallion (John W. Thomas) 1944   Firestone  3½-inch   Rene Chambellan

1944-010-002  Firestone Boy Scout Medallion (Harvey S. Firestone, Jr.)   19xx 3½-inch         Rene Chambellan

BSA Firestone Award Medal

BSA Firestone Award Medal

1944-010-003  Firestone Boy Scout Medallion (Raymond C. Firestone)  19xx  3½-inch           Rene Chambellan

BSA 50th Anniversary Medal

BSA 50th Anniversary Medal

1960-018  Boy Scouts 50th Anniversary Medal  1960  Boy Scouts of America   2½-inch           Curt Beck

1968-155  Boy Scouts of American Pedro Medal  1958   Robert Crozier  1½-inch            Hand Cut Dies


History of America Series:

BSA Founded 1910 Medal

BSA Founded 1910 Medal

1972-182-135  Boy Scouts of America Founded  1972  Glendenning Co 1 9/16-inch      Model by Mico Kaufman, lettering by Ramon Gordils

1973-084  Boy Scouts of The Philippines Medal  1973  Asian Mint Corp   1½-inch           Joseph A. DiLorenzo

BSA USA Bicentennial Medal

BSA USA Bicentennial Medal

1975-099  Boy Scouts of America Bicentennial Commemorative Medal   1976  BSA  2½-inch     Ramon Gordils

1977-067  Boy Scouts of America Jamboree Medal  1977  Boy Scouts of America     Unknown Artist

1985-280  BSA International Year of the Youth Medal  1977  Unicover Frank Gasparro

1887-204  Ocean County Girl Scouts Coin Medal  1987  Ocean County Girl Scouts          Steve Adams

1987-205  Ocean County Girl Scouts Coin Medal  1987  Ocean County Girl Scouts           Tom Mangano


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A SMALL group of American sculptors, meeting in Washington DC in 1928, discussed the sad state of the art medal in America. No one was promoting such a class of medals and a previous attempt, The Circle of Friends of the Medallion, had ceased after only 12 issues in a brief existence 1909-1915.

Whether they were aware of such art medal series in France and Holland is not known but the seeds of such a series in America began to take root. The discussion continued in New York City and such a plan fell on eager ears of Clyde Curlee Trees, who had only recently acquired ownership of Medallic Art Company the year before in 1927.  He would be only too happy to manufacture such art objects but could not sponsor it himself.

What was needed was an angel, a backer, a sponsor who could underwrite the expense of promoting such a venture, however magnanimous such an act for the art world would be. Trees was fortunate in finding such a person in art patron George Dupont Pratt.

Pratt was an amateur sculptor, the Weils, Henri and Felix, had reproduced one of Pratt’s sculptural creations, Mountain Goat, as a galvano medallion in 1914.  George Pratt was the son of Charles M. Pratt who founded Pratt Institute Art School in 1887, long a Brooklyn organization for educating promising artists. He was active in art organizations and a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Would he become the backer Trees needed to launch a series of art medals? It would be a large philanthropic step but Trees was persistent. Pratt agreed and the two proceeded. Trees promotional ability and Pratt’s backing worked well.

The two found an willing artist, Laura Gardin Fraser, wife of James Earle Fraser, one of those who had been in the early discussion of such an American series. Laura Fraser prepared the models for the first medal.

Like the previous Circle of Friends, the new Society of Medallists would be sold on a subscription basis, two medals a year. The goal was to showcase American sculptors’  bas-relief art in a most appealing way. Each of the medals was to be given a different patina finish (an ambitious goal which had to be modified after about forty such patinas – the limit known at the time). Cost of a year’s subscription was nominal, only $6 for two medals. Promise of fine art in medallic form was attractive.

The launch occurred at the beginning of the Great Depression, however, it proved one fact, even in such a dour economic situation people longed for contact with Beauty, with Art. A miniature work of art in permanent metal they could in their hand filled that angst within their psyche.

Trees manage to sell 1200 initial subscriptions, an ample press run for his tiny shop. With Pratt’s backing Trees continued to promote the art medal series. In all, his Medallic Art Company would produce more than 3,000 Issue Number 1s — Laura Fraser’s Hunter and Turkey. A scene of familiar genre as the heads of many households found a Thanksgiving Dinner among the wild birds common in America.

SOM-Issue1Hunter and Turkey

SOM-Issue1Hunter and Turkey

America’s top sculptor masters are found among he names of the artists creating the early Society medals. Here we find Paul Manship, Hermon McNeil, Frederick MacMonnies, Lee Laurie, John Flanagan, Carl Paul Jennewein, Gatano Cecere, Herbert Adams, Lorado Taft – all giants in the field.

A sculpture from these artists could command thousands of dollars. One could obtain a medal – expressing their chosen art in their own style – for only a few dollars. The economy dictated a low price, but the cost of production was not that great once the models were obtained from the artist. Trees was able to eke out a tiny profit to keep his shop open, even as commercial commissions for medals dried up.

Portraits on Society medals were discouraged, but not prohibited. Issue #4 bore a portrait of nation aviation hero Chares Lindberg by MacMonnies. It was left unsaid what themes could appear on Society medals; the artists were at liberty to choose their own subject and treat it in any artistic way they wished.

What tended to appear were scenes from nature, animals, birds, mythological subjects, Biblical topics.  Aviation and astronomy were popular. Subjects of current events, which seem important at the time  tend to diminish with time. Hal Reed’s Atomic Energy of 1981 seems common place now days.

Creation was a popular theme, first presented by Anthony de Francisci in a swirling universe of unusual shape with silver patina. This was followed by Albert Wein, Donald De Lue, Katherine Lane Weems, and Joseph Coletti, each with their own interpretations of Creation in medallic form.

SOM-Issue12  Creation

SOM-Issue12 Creation

Trees was able to maintain continuity with two medals a year throughout the turbulent 1930s. There were times when the medal shop did not have enough commercial orders for medals that he had to send the employees home by noon, or whenever the little work they had on hand got done. He was thankful for the medals he had to produce for the Society.

The quantity diminished from that initial multi thousand first issue. It first went below a thousand in 1936. But what could have been the kiss of death was World War II.  Bronze became a strategic war material, needed for war armaments and ammunition. Every shot in the war came from a copper shell casing.

Use of bronze for nonessential art medals was halted. Trees solved the problem – to his credit – by issuing two medals in the dept of the war years 1943 and 1944, in silver. Obviously in smaller size to offset the higher cost of silver.

An attempt was made to maintain the Society as a separate entity from Medallic Art Company. It used a mailing address of the National Arts Club in lower Manhattan – later the Architectural League on 40th Street — as a mail drop. This appeared on stationery, newsletters, advertisements, and return address on medals sent out.  This was convenient because as soon as William Trees Louth (Clyde’s nephew) was hired in 1946, his wife was placed in charge of The Society and handled all the correspondence.

She had tired of this chore, so in the Fall of 1969 Bill Louth sought someone to replace her. He commuted from his home in Weston Connecticut to Manhattan each day, frequently had a seat companion of Harkness Cram, an account executive at J. Walter Thompson Advertising Ageny. The subject of The Society came up in conversation.

Harkness Cram was interested, volunteered his wife, Mary Louise Cram’s services, so in December 1969 Bill appointed the Crams as managers. They issued the 80th newsletter leaflet from their address, West Branch Road, Weston, Connecticut – the Society’s new address.

The following year, 1970, was the 40th anniversary of The Society. A contest was held for an anniversary medal, won by Atlanta sculptor, Julian Hoke Harris. The Crams oversaw the marketing of this medal.

With this success, Bill Louth charged the pair to increase the membership which by then had slid to 800 a year, and to increase the profitability of the medals since Medallic Art Company had, in effect, subsidized the Society for 40 years.

The Crams were able to push the membership back over a 1000. For increasing the profits they proposed to issue current medals in both bronze and silver. And, if Bill agreed, go back and reissue the early medals in silver.

At this time, Medallic Art was planning for the marketing of medals for the American Bicentennial in 1976. This, obviously, would be a great occasion for issuing medals, which, did indeed, prove true. But it was also a great occasion for Bill Louth (and the two other owners, Julius Lauth and Francis Trees) to sell the company.

They found a buyer in Donald Schwartz, who owned two other family companies. They did not need his full attention, he was looking for another small company he could manage full time. Medallic Art, with its potential for American Bicentennial business, was ideal. Schwartz raised the money among ten stockholders and the purchase was finalized January 1972.

The first major problem was that the plant in New York City was too small, the property was owned by the Trees family who wanted to sell and new equipment was needed. Ultimately a 22-acre site in Danbury Connecticut was found and a new plant was build which was completed in June 1972.

The Society of Medallists was part of the deal. It came with Medallic Art Company.

Silver medals were issued along with the bronze beginning 1973 (#87) and continued until 1979 (#100).  Schwartz liked the idea of reissung the early Society issues in silver and this began also in 1973 and ran from #1 through #49.

A subscription for a membership received two bronze medals and the cost in 1972 was $16. Under Schwartz the membership cost rose (ultimately to $120 a year) the number of members fell. Sales of the silver, once as high as 250 fell to 50 in 1979.  To save expenses Schwartz dismissed the Crams.

He replaced the Crams with retired museum official Joseph Veach Nobel as art director. Under Nobel’s influence he introduced a great variety of sculptural art into the series. But also included models by two foreign artists.

By this time, 1989, Bob Hoff acquired the Company, moved it to Sioux Falls South Dakota. Hoff attempted to continue the Society issues, but had not obtained the membership list in the acquisition. After issuing medals through #129 Hoff allowed the Society to cease.

Before I finish with this Introduction of The Society of Medallists I would like to relate some of the charming things found among these early medals.

Concordant.  Issue #15 Love by Robert Ingersoll Aitken is like sculpture in-the-round – the reverse is the back side of the obverse figure – said to be concordant.

SOM-Issue15  Concordant

SOM-Issue15 Concordant

Hidden self-portrait.  Issue #7 by Carl Paul Jennewein placed a tiny cartoon portrait of himself in his monogram signature.

Family affair.  A father and son, and a husband and wife prepared Society issues.  Adolph Weinman (#39) is the father of Robert Weinman (#69). Laura Gardidn Fraser (#1) is the wife of James Earle Fraser (#45).

Famous photograph.  Issue #31 Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima was sculpted by Rene P. Chambellan after the famous World War II phtograph by T. Rosenthal.

SOM-Issue 31  Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima

SOM-Issue 31 Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima

Most charming of all!   Cat and Mouse (#115) by Robert Weinman.

SOM-Issue 115 Cat and Mouse

SOM-Issue 115 Cat and Mouse

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Committee members appointed to design the National Capitol Centennial Medal in 1900- Charles Barber disregarded all their suggestions for his own design. Medal struck in metal from Capitol roof.


Medals and medallic items exhibited at the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals at the American Numismatic Society March 1910. Medalists from 11 countries sent exhibits.


In-house sculptors at Medallic Art Company until it moved out of New York City, 1972. Previously any sculpture chores performed by one of the Weil brothers, founders. Ramon Gordills was hired as factory artist when the last Weil died.


Articles written by Georgia Chamberlain reprinted in her book American Medals and Medalists, published by her husband in 1963 after her death.


Medals listed by Robert Julian in his book, U.S. Mint The First Century. Artists are identified for 412 items; 161 items have unknown artists.


Items are not medals in book 100 Greatest Medals and Tokens by Katie Jaeger and Q. David Bowers. Counterstamped items colonial coins, Hard Times, storecards, cut coins, encased postage stamps, plus 25 others, fall in class of tokens, thus 61 true medals.


Medals made by Medallic Art Company from 1906 to 1976 and cataloged by Dick Johnson before he left the firm Jan 1977.


Estimated number of sculptor-medalists of medals produced by Medallic Art Co. in 1906-1976 based on a sample of records; figure could increase when all records are checked for artists.


Dies from Scovill Manufacuring’s die vault, in Waterbury, that were deemed of “historical significance” and donated to 18 museums (plus others later) at suggestion of museum consultant Bruce S. Bazelon (registrar, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Harrisburg). In 1962 He examined 15,000 dies.


Estimated percentage of medals (and tokens) by unknown engravers issued in America during 19th century. Most hand engravers did not sign their work, thus engraver remains unknown.

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IN RESEARCHING the early activities of what was to become Medallic Art Company in preparation for a history of the company, and the two Weil Brothers – Henri and Felix – one fact became quite evident. The pair continued to do what they had done for as long as they had been in New York City. They served at the direction of sculptors.

The Weils acquired art training in different ways. Henri had apprenticed to sculptor George Wagner, married to their sister, and served as his assistant for four years. Later Felix was also apprenticed to his brother-in-law as well. Each morning their job was to unwrap the clay model their brother-in-law was working on. At the end of the day they would moisten the clay and wrap the clay for the night.

Odd jobs around the studio occupied their daytime activities. It was impossible, however, to work for a sculptor and not observe the techniques and learn the ability to model the clay into final form. Henri was assigned small parts to model, which would be applied to a larger model. Later Felix did the same, perhaps inspiring him to become a sculptor. He enrolled at New York’s Cooper Union for nighttime studies.

At Cooper Union the pair met other aspiring sculptors, Felix’s fellow students. Not only did these people become close friends to the Weil brothers, these same artists were to gain fame later in life. While sculptors were competitors for art commissions, they tended to congregate in New York City, center of American business at the turn of the 20th century.

After leaving the Wagner studio Henri worked for a Belgian sculptor creating statuary for the 1892-93 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. When he returned to New York he is employed by a sculptural firm preparing all the decorative work for the Waldorf Hotel.

Felix struck out on his own, left his brother-in-law and went to work for sculptor Alex Doyle, who had a commission for a Yorktown monument. After a brief period at Cooper Union, Felix also studied at night at the National Academy of Design. As work at Doyle’s studio declines he applied to Philip Martiny, who also had commissions for work at the Columbian Expo. He is sent to Chicago with Martiny‘s models, ultimately to work in the same building with his brother, each for a different sculptor.

Following a bicycle accident in Chicago, Felix spends a year in Mexico City, then returns to New York City to form a sculpture business with Jules Edouard Roiné, a partnership, Roiné & Weil to last for a decade.

Henri joins the Deitsch Brothers, ladies handbag manufacturers, as a sculptor for the fine decorative silverwork attached to their handbags, then in fashion. As often happens, fashions change neglecting the need for such decoration. Meanwhile Henri, at his employers’ insistence, imported the first Janvier pantograph to America.

To save his job, Henri suggested what he knew best: solicit work from sculptors for work for the new Janvier. Success was slow at first, but sculptors started bringing their models to Henri to cut dies to strike medals. This work from sculptors lead to the beginning of Medallic Art Company.

What I have learned was the procedure of how the Weils obtained work after they acquired ownership of the Janvier and the company name. The artists brought the work to the Weils. They knew the Weils as friends, and as part of the sculptural community in New York City.

The sculptors drove the business. This was to continue for two decades. The Weils were serving in a capacity they knew well, and did well. They could take a sculptor’s bas-relief model or models and do whatever the artist wanted, cast a galvano metal relief, or make the dies and have medals struck. The Weils had taken their talents from sculptors’ assistants to furnishing a finished sculptural product at the highest level of sculptural accomplishment.

Below is a list of 63 sculptors for whom the Weils did work – galvano casts or die-struck medals — that first two decades of the firm.  Later, after the Weils had hired Clyde Curlee Trees in 1919, he compiled a list of sculptors in 1927 who could be added to this list, prospects for new work for the Weils’ talents. Both lists follow.

Artists of MACO Medals

First Two Decades

Robert Ingersoll Aitken  (1878-1949)
Evelyn Longman Batchelder  (1874-1954)
Chester Beach  (1881-1956)
Gutzon Borglum  (1867-1941)
John Joseph Boyle  (1852-1917)
Victor David Brenner  (1871-1924)
George Thomas Brewster (1862-1943)
Richard Edwin Brooks  (1865-1919)
Roger Noble Burnham (1876-1962)
Henry Kirke Bush-Brown (1857-1935)
Charles Calverley  (1833-1914)
Pierre J. Cheron  or Pierrez Cheron (?)
Gail Sherman Corbett  (1871-1952)
Russell Gerry Crook  (1869-1955)
Leonard Crunelle  (1872-1944)
Ulysses S.J. Dunbar  (1862-1927)
Ulric Ellerhussen  (1879-1957)
Paul Fjelde  (1892-1987)
John Flanagan  (1865-1952)
James Earle Fraser  (1876-1953)
Laura Gadin Fraser  (1889-1966)
Daniel Chester French  (1850-1931)
Johanes Sophus Gelert  (1852-1923)
Louis Albert Gudebrod  (1872-1961)
Ernest Eimer Hannan  (1875-1945)
Jonathan Scott Hartley  (1845-1912)
Eli Harvey  (1860-1957)
Ernest Bruce Haswell  (1889-1965)
Henry Hering  (1874-1949)
Anna Hyatt Huntington  (1876-1973)
John Milton Jehu   (fl 1912-13)
Jeno Juszko  (1880-1954)
Thomas Hudson Jones  (1892-1969)
Gozo Kawamura (1886-1950)
Charles Keck  (1875-1951)
Ernest Wise Keyser  (1876-1959)
Isidore Konti  (1862-1938)
H. Augustus Lukeman  (1871-1935)
Edward McCartan  (1879-1947)
R. Tait McKenzie  (1867-1938)
Herman Atkins MacNeil  (1866-1947)
Paul Manship (1885-1966)
Joseph Maxwell Miller (1877-1933)
John Mowbray-Clarke  (1869-1953)
Josephine W. Newlin  (?)
Allan Newman (1875-1940)
M. Devoe White Peden [Mrs.] (?)
Attilio Piccirilli   (1868-1945)
Bela Lyon Pratt  (1867-1917)
George DuPont Pratt (1869-1935)
Steven Augustus Rebeck  (1891-1975)
Ulysses A  Ricci  (1888-1960)
Jules Edouard Roiné (1857-1916)
Augustus Saint-Gaudens  (1848-1907)
Hans Schuler (1874-1951)
Janet Scudder  (1869-1940)
Theodore Spicer-Simson  (1871-1959)
Jonathan M. Swanson   (1888-1963)
Lorado Taft (1860-1936)
Fred Martin Torrey  (1884-1967)
Adolph Weinman  (1870-1952)
Julia Bracken Wendt  (1871-1942)
Emil Robert Zettler  (1878-1946)

Additional Artists 
Trees Published in 1927

Mrs. Oakes Ames
Caroline Peddle Ball
Madeline A. Bartlett
Paul Bartlett
Edward Berge
Roger Nobel Burnham
Jules Leon Butensky
Gaetano Cecere
Rene Chambellan
Edwardo Conta
Joseph Coletti
Henri Crenier
Jorgen C. Dreyer
Antony de Francisci
Louisa Eyre
Robert Everhart
Sally James Farnam
Beatrice Fenton
Alexandra Finta
Edwin Frey
Harriett Frishmuth
Sherry Fry
Emil Fuchs
John Gregory
Beatrice Fox Griffith
Francis Grimes
Fredric V. Guinzburg
Charles Andrew Hafner
C.A. Hamann
John Hancock
Walter Hancock
Rachel M. Hawes
Leon Hermant
Frederic C. Hibbard
Charles Hinton
Malvina Hoffman
Victor S. Holm
Karl Hlava
Mrs. William Fetch Kelley
Josephine Kern
Henry Hudson Kitson
Isidore Konti
Gaston Lachaise
Anna Coleman Ladd
Albert Lasalle
Jack Lambert
Lee Lawrie
Arthur Lee
Alfred Lenz
George Lober
Frederick W. MacMonnies
Sue Watson Marshall
Joseph Martino
Herman Matzen
Harriett H. Mayor
Alfred Mewett
May Mott-Smith-Small
Mary Mowbray-Clarke
Joseph C. Motto
Eli Nadelman
Berthold Nebel
Josephine W. Nevins
Charles H. Niehaus
Violet Oakley
Sashka Paeff
Ernesto Bigni del Pratta
Ferrucio Piccirilli
Furio Piccirilli
Albin Polasek
Phinister Proctor
Brenda Putnam
Edmund T. Quinn
Frederick G. R. Roth
Charles Cary Rumsey
Antonio Salemme
Victor Salvatore
Anton Schaaf
Otto Scheizer
Ruth Sherwood
Emil Siebern
Walter A. Sinz
Karl F. Skoog
Ishmael Smith
Mrs. Lindsey M. Sterling
Eliza Talbott Taylor
Count Leo Tolstoy
Leilah Usher
Bessie Potter Vonnoh
Albert Weiner
Alice Morgan Wright
Enid Yandell
Albert C. Young
Mahonri M. Young
Marco Zim

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I was once asked to describe the Hall of Fame Series of medals in one sentence.  I wrote “One of the most popular series of medals in the world.” I should have included the word “portrait.”

Portrait medal series had existed in Europe long before. Swiss engraver Jean Dassier (1676-1763) worked in France where he created a 72-medal series of Famous French Celebrities, then moved on to England to engrave a series of British Kings and Queens.

In America the U.S. Mint struck medals of army and naval heroes at the discretion of the U.S. Congress. These were more single-issue medals that had a similarity of size and theme that seamed to fall into a series.

They struck medals bearing the portrait of presidents as they were inaugurated late in the 19th century, but overlooked, at first, earlier presidents.

Even America’s two 20th century medal series, Circle of Friends of the Medallion and The Society of Medallists overlooked portraits. They had no rule against portraits in either series, but few bore portraits.

There had been no true American portrait series until Presidential Art Medals, of Ohio, issued a series of U.S. presidents, in half dollar size, created by a top American sculptor and struck as fine art medals by Medallic Art Company.

The success of that series led to a second – honoring U.S. States – each of which bore a portrait of their most famous son, then a third series on Signers of the Declaration of Independence. All three series were created by one artist, Ralph J. Menconi (1915-1972) and all three series bore portraits on every medal, all of half dollar size, convenient for collecting, placing in an album, as collectors had done with coin series.

The success of President Art’s three series got everyone thinking about other potential medal series. In New York City, the Hall of Fame series was a natural for a medal series.

The Hall of Fame honors the most famous Americans chosen by a select group of judges and sponsored by New York University. The first election was held in 1896, and elections were held every four years thereafter.

Bronze statues of the honorees were installed along a Colonnade partially circling a building designed by famed architect Stanford White at the University’s Morningside Heights campus. Niches for 102 statues appear on both sides of the Colonnade walkway.

Once a person was elected to the Hall of Fame – the world’s first such hall of fame now widely copied by other organizations and fields – a statue was commissioned to be created slightly oversize by a a prominent American sculptor. Once cast in bronze, it was installed in its own niche in that outdoor colonnade.

I cannot say for certain who came up with the idea first, I suspect it was Medallic Art’s president Bill Louth, but it was a brilliant concept. In 1962 he formed a coalition to sponsor and market fine art medals of these most famous Hall of Fame Americans. If it was Bill Louth’s program it was in imitation of one by his uncle, Clyde Curle Trees who created The Society of Medallists, three decades earlier in 1930.

The coalition consisted of New York University, the owner of the Hall of Fame, the National Sculpture Society who would furnish an art committee, the Medallic Art Company, which would manufacture the medals, and the Coin and Currency Institute which would market the medals.

Over the next 13 years, 96 medals were created by 42 sculptors, predominately members of the National Sculpture Society. While the design was left to the artist each submission had to pass the approval of the Art Committee composed of at least five of the artists’ sculptural peers.

Rules for the medal design were simple. It had to be a portrait on the obverse, significant scene from that subject’s accomplishment for the reverse plus lettering on either side, in legend or inscription, HALL OF FAME FOR GREAT AMERICANS AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.

Medals were struck in two sizes. A large 3-inch (76mm) bronze only, and a small 1¾-inch (44mm) size in bronze and silver. The silver medals were serially numbered.

If I had to name the persons most responsible for the success of this series if would be Julius Lauth (1913-1991),  art director at Medallic Art Company and Robert Friedberg (1912-1963) owner of Coin and Currency Institute. Lauth (no relation to  Bill Louth, just a similarity of last names to the despair of our company telephone operators) kept on top of issuing commissions to qualified sculptor-medalists, all 96 commissions.

Julius knew who was available and who would have an empathy for the subject. For the theologians, for example, he would choose a sculptor with sympathetic religious beliefs. Or of similar ethic or background heritage as the American portrayed in a relief work of art.

Julius had a dossier on each artist in his head. He was a masterful art director. Artists adored him, not only for the generous commissions he bestowed but also for his gentle demeanor and useful design suggestions. He never gave orders to artists, he was always attuned to their creative egos. In return, artists would do anything to please Julius, even if it meant another day or two completely remodeling a medal design he had briefly suggested.

But of paramount importance, if the sculptor who prepared the bronze bust in the Hall of Fame Colonnade was still alive, he would commission that artist for the medal. Such artist would already have the images still in his mind. It would be a superb companion piece to compliment their heroic sculpture in medallic form.

And in one case, where a sculptor died, as had Laura Gardin Fraser, Julius  had to retrieve what she had accomplished to that point and reassign it to an artist with similar style and aptitude, Karl Gruppe.

I also remember in a conversation with Julius he was aware of the medal sequence, commissioning lesser known honorees, holding back some more popular ones for the last of the series. He wanted to maintain collector interest right up to the end.

Robert Friedberg was a genius who build a coin dealership following World war II into a numismatic institution. His knowledge of the field, and of marketing, led him to create a coin department, a leased department in a department store. He emulated the Marcus organization which had the philatelic department in Gimbels.

In New York City at the flagship Gimbels, Friedberg establish a coin department right next to the stamp department on the first floor.  To justify the high rent, he supplied the coin department with plenty of numismatic material on a continuing basis.

The success of a New York department store led to opening coin departments in other Gimbels stores around the country. At the height of the Friedberg expansion he had coin departments in 38 states. Purchases at these departments were typical gift items, often called the “grandmother trade.” Hall of Fame medals would be ideal gifts although many adult collectors would obtain these for themselves.

Bill Louth and Bob Friedberg worked out the details of the Hall of Fame series to maximize exposure, sales and profits and to level out the workload for both organizations. They settled on a schedule of six or eight new medals a year, in the two sizes, with a silver version only in the small size, and delivery of enough quantity to supply all thirty-some-odd coin departments throughout the country. And they intended to maintain that schedule.

Each organization promoted the series. Medallic Art issued a five-inch square brochure prepared by the firm’s advertising agency. It was reported to have won awards but didn’t sell many medals. In contrast Coin and Currency issued a much thinner same-size brochure which helped sell medals and the series, but didn’t win any art awards.

Bob Friedberg died soon after the program started. The business continued, however, under his widow, Goldie and his brother, Jack Friedberg. As a family business, it was ultimately controlled by Bob’s two sons Ira and Arthur Friedberg.

In the 1980’s New York University sold their Morningside campus to City College of New York. The status of the Hall of Fame was – and is still – in limbo. Since that time no elections have been held, no new statues have been erected, and no new medals issued. Ninety-eight of the 102 niches are filled, only four remain open. Four names have been elected for those openings, however.

Visitors to New York City can still travel to Morningside Heights and walk the Colonnade, viewing the magnificent statues overlooking the Hudson River. Or they can own a a set of fine art medals created by some of the most talented medalists of the 20th century.

For the hundreds of collectors who have 90 or more of these medals they would like to have the medals created for the last honorees who have been elected, even if their statue is not in the Colonnade. That would give some closure to the series.

Below is a list of medals in order of issue, the MAco catalog number and the Colonnade location. Pictures, artists names, other data and a brief note I wrote in 2004 can be found here: www.medalcollectorsorg/Guides/HFGA.html

A gallerie of many of this series can be found here: www.medallic.com/galleries/famous_americans_gallery.php

Hall of Fame Medals Series

Position Issue Date Name Die Number ©
26 1963 Benjamin Franklin Medal. . . . . 63-1-2 1962
31 1963 Abraham Lincoln Medal. . . 63-1-3 1963
3 1963 John James Audubon Medal . 63-1-4 1962
16 1963 Walter Reed Medal. . . . . 63-1-5 1963
59 1963 Henry David Thoreau Medal. 63-1-6 1963
91 1963 Mark Twain Medal . . . . . 63-1-7 1963
79 1963 Roger Williams Medal . . . 63-1-8 1963
27 1963 George Washington Medal. . 63-1-9 1963
30 1963 Thomas Jefferson Medal . . 63-1-10     1962
88 1963 James Fenimore Cooper. . . 63-1-11 1963
80 1963 Mark Hopkins Medal . . . . 63-1-12 1963
70 1963 Susan B. Anthony Medal . . 63-1-13 1963
82 1963 Henry Ward Beecher Medal . 63-1-14 1964
5 1963 Samuel F.B. Morse Medal. . 63-1-15 1963
61 1963 Stephen C. Foster Medal. . 63-1-16 1964
93 1963 Edgar Allen Poe Medal. . . 63-1-17 1964
65 1963 Peter Cooper Medal . . . . 63-1-18 1964
4 1963 Eli Whitney Medal. . . . . 63-1-19 1964
53 1963 Ulysses S. Grant Medal . . 63-1-20 1964
58 1964 Edward A. MacDowell Medal. 63-1-21 1964
77 1964 Alice Freeman Palmer Medal 63-1-22 1964
94 1964 George Bancroft Medal. . . 63-1-23 1964
44 1964 Joseph Story Medal . . . . 63-1-24 1964
18 1964 Josiah Willard Gibbs Medal 63-1-25 1964
43 1965 John Marshall Medal. . . . 63-1-26 1964
56 1965 Robert E. Lee Medal. . . . 63-1-27 1964
11 1965 Maria Mitchell Medal . . . 63-1-28 1965
21 1965 Thomas Alva Edison Medal . 63-1-29 1965
81 1965 Phillips Brooks Medal. . . 63-1-30 1965
97 1965 Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.. 63-1-31 1965
60 1966 Daniel Boone Medal . . . . 63-1-32 1966
75 1966 Sylvanus Thayer Medal. . . 63-1-33 1966
96 1966 John Greenleaf Whittier. . 63-1-34 1966
40 1966 William Penn Medal . . . . 63-1-35 1966
32 1966 Daniel Webster Medal . . . 63-1-36 1966
38 1966 Patrick Henry Medal. . . . 63-1-37 1966
6 1966 Robert Fulton Medal. . . . 63-1-38 1966
15 1966 William Thomas Morton. . . 63-1-39 1966
39 1966 Grover Cleveland Medal . . 63-1-40 1966
12 1966 George Westinghouse Medal. 63-1-41 1966
13 1966 Louis Agassiz Medal. . . . 63-1-42 1966
42 1966 Woodrow Wilson Medal . . . 63-1-43 1967
20 & 22   1967 Wilbur & Orville Wright. . 63-1-44 1967
95 1967 William Cullen Bryant. . . 63-1-45 1967
74 1967 Mary Lyon Medal. . . . . . 63-1-46 1967
57 1967 David Glasgow Farragut . . 63-1-47 1967
37 1967 James Monroe Medal . . . . 63-1-48 1967
78 1967 Emma Willard Medal . . . . 63-1-49 1967
84 1968 William E. Channing Medal. 63-1-50 1968
99 1968 Ralph Waldo Emerson Medal. 63-1-51 1968
72 1968 Jane Addams Medal. . . . . 63-1-52 1968
55 1968 John Paul Jones Medal. . . 63-1-53 1968
101 1968 Irving Medal. . 63-1-54 1968
64 1968 Gilbert C. Stuart Medal. . 63-1-55 1968
45 1968 James Kent Medal . . . . . 63-1-56 1968
41 1968 Theodore Roosevelt Medal . 63-1-57 1968
69 1969 Frances Elizabeth Willard. 63-1-58 1969
14 1969 William C. Gorgas Medal. . 63-1-59 1969
25 1969 Thomas Paine Medal . . . . 63-1-60 1969
87 1969 Sidney Lanier Medal. . . . 63-1-61 1969
33 1969 James Madison Medal . . . 63-1-62 1969
102 1970 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 63-1-63 1970
48 1969 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.. 63-1-64 1970
68 1969 Edwin Thomas Booth Medal . 63-1-65 1970
90 1970 John Lothrop Motley Medal. 63-1-66 1970
98 1970 James Russell Lowell Medal 63-1-67 1970
10 1970 Simon Newcomb Medal. . . . 63-1-68 1970
76 1970 Booker T. Washington Medal 63-1-69 1970
66 1970 Augustus St-Gaudens Medal. 63-1-70 1970
83 1970 Horace Mann Medal. . . . . 63-1-71 1970
36 1970 Alexander Hamilton Medal . 63-1-72 1971
35 1970 Andrew Jackson Medal . . . 63-1-73 1971
92 1971 Francis Parkman Medal. . . 63-1-74 1971
1 1971 Elias Howe Medal . . . . . 63-1-75 1971
71 1971 Lillian D. Wald Medal. . . 63-1-76 1971
28 1971 John Adams Medal . . . . . 63-1-77 1971
80 1971 Walt Whitman Medal . . . . 63-1-78 1971
9 1971 James Buchanan Eads Medal. 63-1-79 1971
34 1972 John Quincy Adams Medal. . 63-1-80 1972
54 1972 T.J. Stonewall Jackson . . 63-1-81 1972
7 1972 Asa Gray Medal . . . . . . 63-1-82 1972
63 1972 James A.M. Whistler. . . . 63-1-83 1972
17 1972 Joseph Henry Medal . . . . 63-1-84 1972
85 1972 Jonathan Edwards Medal . . 63-1-85 1972
46 1973 Rufus Choate Medal . . . . 63-1-86 1973
50 1973 William Tecumseh Sherman . 63-1-87 1973
23 1973 Albert A. Michelson Medal. 63-1-88 1973
29 1973 Henry Clay Medal . . . . . 63-1-89 1973
24 1973 George Washington Carver . 63-1-90 197x
67 1973 Charlotte S. Cushman Medal 63-1-91 1974
62 1974 George Peabody Medal . . . 63-1-92 1974
8 1974 Matthew Fontaine Maury . . 63-1-93 1974
89 1974 Harriet Beecher Stowe . . 63-1-94 1975
100 1974 Nathaniel Hawthorne Medal. 63-1-95 1975
52 1974 John Philip Sousa Medal . 63-1-96 19??
    Statue created, but no medal was created:    
51   Franklin Delano Roosevelt 97  
    Voted into Hall of Fame, but no statue or medal was created:    
    Louis Dembity Brandeis 98  
    Clara Barton 99  
    Luther Burbank 100  
    Andrew Carnegie 101  

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Conner Sculpt

Conner Sculpt

THIS WEEK we learn of a rejected coin design from Ireland which is featured in a museum exhibit that illustrates the history of Ireland in 100 objects. The coin model, prepared in 1926, shows a charming little boy described as “scampish” in the article appearing in the Irish Times this week. The coin model was from a coin competition of 1927 that led to the first national Irish coinage with coins struck in 1929.

A committee, led by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, was charged with choosing eight new coin designs and selecting a sculptor to create the models. The committee chose animals and a fish native to Ireland as the motifs for each of the eight denominations. They also selected nine artists from six countries to enter a closed (invitation only) competition.

Irish-born sculptor Jerome Stanley Conner stepped outside the rules – disregarding the recommended animal. Instead he created a model for the penny shown here bearing that Irish youth whose plaster design is now on exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland.

Conner, who had left Ireland at age 14, came to America in 1889. Educated in Boston, he later became proficient in sculpture, specializing in monumental work in studios in Washington DC and New York City. He had returned to Ireland in 1925 before the invitations to compete in the coin competition were issued.

The artist felt the penny was a child’s coin. His design reflected this by celebrating a childhood theme according to the Irish Times article. This also brought to mind the harsh times in Ireland’s history where Irish families gave up their children to be housed in institutions because they were poor. The article expands on this.

[I looked up Conner (1875-1943) in my American Artists Databank. I found such tidbits as he was a one-time prize fighter, his name was often misspelled “Connor” – OR – even in his obituary in the New York Times (August 22, 1943), and the name is listed both ways in biographical dictionaries Fielding (1926) and Falk (1999). He also prepared reliefs of famous Americans. I had sold a galvano relief he had created of Walt Whitman in one of my auctions.]

In June 2011 numismatic author Ed Reiter wrote an article of the subject of this Ireland coin competition from the viewpoint of one of the rejected artist’s models – those of Italian Publico Morbiducci. The author records all artists who were invited in addition to the Italian Morbiducci – Americans Paul Manship, James Earle Fraser, and Ivan Mestrovic. Fraser declined to participate, Mestrovic received the invitation late and only submitted a model of the Irish harp to be common on all eight coins. Manship created all eight coin models.

In addition to Conner, Irish sculptors Albert Power and Oliver Sheppard were invited. Also Carl Milles of Sweden and Percy Metcalfe of England. Metcalfe won the competition and the others received a 50- pound compensation.

Reiter mentioned Morbiducci’s rejected models had sold over the years, individually and that a complete set once sold for $100,000. Paul Manship was, perhaps, more assured of his position in the art field despite not winning this competition.

Manship had donated a set of his rejected coin models to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929, the year Metcalfe’s designed coins were released. He also donated his studio set of the eight models to the Smithsonian Art Museum (among other studio models) in 1965 a year before his death.

While Morbiducci’s models have infrequently appeared in the numismatic and art fields we have knowledge of other rejected coin models. The competition for the Washington quarter, resulting in the 1932 Flanagan design, is the most prominent that comes to mind.

1999 Washington Gold Coin

1999 Washington Gold Coin

Laura Gardin Fraser’s Washington model for this competition was rejected in 1932 but resurrected by U.S. Mint officials in 1999 for the commemorative $5 gold for the bicentennial of George Washington’s death. Both her obverse and reverse models were revived for this modern U.S. commemorative.

This was an open coin competition, anyone could submit a plaster model, and hundreds did. John Flanagan’s model was chosen to appear on the quarter (it continues to this day, even with reverses of the fifty states and “American Beautiful” National Parks and Monument designs).

The U.S. Treasury returned all unaccepted models. Many of those 1932 competition rejected models were made into cheap tokens, some were destroyed by dejected artists, some were never heard from again, most remained in sculptors’ studios. When their estates are sold these come on the market. Those models by New York sculptor Thomas Cremona bounced around the New York City market for some time. NASCA sold one in their auctions, I sold another.

What can be learned from these events?  Competitions are often held to obtain coin – or medal – designs. Open competitions are just that – open to anyone – where a wide spectrum of designs are received. These come from amateurs, including school children (art teachers often encourage this). Unfortunately professional artists often eschew these contests as not worth their time to enter.

Drawings of unaccepted designs can easily be returned but at an expense. It is an even greater expense to return models. As evident here these models are often recycled into other, sometimes competing products. Open competitions require a lot of time and expense to publicize and to judge. The hope is always to discover some hidden talent. It is best not to accept models in an open competition.

Better, more professional artistic designs are obtained in a closed competition. Here the artists are chosen in advance, but all who participate expect to be paid. Of the choice of drawings versus relief models, the later is preferred. (Some relief artists are not necessarily good draftsmen.) It is best to demand models in a closed competition with the proviso that no models will be returned and become the property of the contest sponsor. This prevents any subsequent use of those designs. 

A note about terms on coin designs.  A model is a design still in plaster (or any previous form, clay, wax, whatever). It becomes a pattern when the model is made into metal.

There are many stories of what happens to unaccepted coin models. If they are returned to their artists they take on a life of their own. Can you say “recycle?”

Internet Resources for this Article

To read Ed Reiter’s article: An Italian Artist’s LegacyTo Irish Numismatics (www.coinnewstoday.com/article2/97-an-italian-artists-legacy-to-irish-numismatics.html)

The Irish Times article by Fintan O’Toole: (www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2012/1117/1224326693688.html)

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LISTED BELOW are traits of artists who have made excellent medalists in the past. I have learned of these from my contact with live artists over the years and the biographies I have prepared for the medallic artists documented in my Databank of American Artists.

While each artist is different, each his own individual, they seemed to share common traits. All seemed to have an appreciation for beauty, and a compelling desire to create, but other similar characteristics became evident when I recorded so many biographical details of these artists. Those listed here are in no particular order, just as the trait came to mind.

Your father was a sculptor.  

Many medalists are second generation sculptors. Ralph Menconi and Joseph DiLorenzo are two whose father encouraged their choice of career. This was not the case in the Weinman household. When Robert Weinman made small sculptures as a youth, his father, Adolph Weinman, broke them up commenting, “There will only be one sculptor in this family.” Despite that, both Robert and his brother Howard were sculptors and competent medalists.

You were born or trained in France or Italy.

Artists with some connection to either of these two countries seem to have an appreciation and an ability for medallic art more so than others. This includes the founders of our company, the Weil Brothers, who were French. Victor Brenner traveled to Paris twice to be trained by the masters there to become one of America’s great medalists. In a comment once in a speech on Italian-born Marcel Jovine, I stated “there must be something in the drinking water in Italy to produce such outstanding medallic artists.” It still holds true.

You worked for St. Gaudens in his studio.

For sculptors active around the turn of the 20th century, if you served in St. Gaudens studio you observed great art first hand, in addition to helping prepare it. Every one of St. Gaudens’ sculpture assistants went on to make medals of exceptional quality. By extension, this could imply to be trained by the best sculptor who will accept you as an apprentice will increase your chance of success.

You are a seasoned artist.

Some artists come to medallic art late in life. I would hope the reason would be a desire for the longevity of their medals – destined to outlast every other art form, including their monumental and architectural works. But it is probably due to experiences gained over the years with a view of mankind’s foibles from a broader perspective. All your life experiences influence your art.

You teach sculpture at the college level.

A professorship in sculpture is ideal for an active medallist. It levels out your income and provides time to create on your own time in your own studio. Here’s a list that comes to mind: Albert d’Andrea, Richard Duhme, Frank Eliscu, Jamie Franki, Angela Gregopry, R. Tait McKenzie, Elliot Offner, Merlin Szosz, Elden Teft, George Tsutakawa and Bud Wertheim. I personally knew all except McKenzie (although I have written extensively about this artist), Teft and Tsutakawa.

You love calligraphy.

Don Everhart and Sherl Joseph Winter are two medalists who have studied calligraphy with the intent of improving their letter forms on their medallic models. The shapes, serifs and shading of letter forms all influence their style which should be harmonious with the theme of the medal, a subtle but important feature.

You are a master with clay and plaster.

This is a requirement for every artist preparing oversize models for medals to be reduced while cutting the die for striking. Some artists are more proficient modeling but this is basic for any sculptural activity that it should be a technique of second nature to every artist who calls himself a sculptor.

You like the classics in literature, art and medallic art.

You like to study the best of past generations. A classic is a work that stands the test of time, it is admired by generations, no matter what the current fad is. This holds true for literature, every form of art including medallic art. It is interesting to view the library in the studio of great sculptors. I remember viewing the studio of Walker Hancock in Gloucester Massachusetts. It included great literature as well as the expected works on great art.

You are a versatile sculptor, preparing monumental works as well as miniature medallic art.

I can mention extremes here. The sculptor who created Mount Rushmore, and both sculptors in charge of Stone Mountain in Georgia – Guzton Borglum and that same Walker Hancock who replaced him to finish the job – both prepared medallic models as well as heroic portraits, mountain-size sculptures. Famed sculptor Malvina Hoffman prepared the frieze on the facade of a building with as much ease as modeling a medal. Scale is relative. A professional sculptor can create both.

Your hobby is symbolism, you can create a symbol for any idea, any concept.

No one sculptor stands out in my mind for symbols, since this trait is so universal among all artists. Good medalists are expected to create good symbols in their medallic designs. The symbolic image must be understood by any knowledgeable person, then presented in an attractive way. Add a touch of charm and that is a winning design. Good medalists know how to employ useful, attractive symbols in their creations.

You’re a “clipper,” you compile a clipping file of images you could possibly render into relief works of art.

Artists don’t talk much about their clipping files but they are so important they have been mentioned in wills, bequeathed much like their tools to past them off to a favorite apprentice or family member. Great artists use these files to get ideas, inspiration and insight how to prepare a new work.

You are so well-versed in medallic technologies you could teach it or write a book on the subject. 

Technique is mastering the tasks required for the job at hand. I have found good medalists can view a new medal and know intuitively how it was modeled. How did the artist treat the eyeball, or the shape of an ear, or the multi strands of hair so it doesn’t look like a bowl of spaghetti dumped on top of the head. These design problems are solved by techniques, some of which are unique to medallic art.

You are a salesman – you can sell your own work.

You cannot be hesitant about seeking plush commissions. You must seek a constant flow of commissions in line with your ability to create them. Talent rises to the top and becomes known. If you receive more commissions than you can handle, you hire assistants, like St. Gaudens, or Andy Warhol.

You don’t mind publicity about you or your work.

Picket Head Medal

Picket Head Medal

Nineteenth century sculptor Byron M. Pickett so overlooked this aspect of his work he remained virtually unknown. Today, 125 years later, medal researchers, art historians and his descendants find it a major chore to piece together his life’s work. (I wrote about him in August 6, 2012.)  He prepared a life-size statue of Samuel F.B. Morse in New York City’s Central Park and a stunning relief portrait of Lincoln that was the model for a postal card issued by the U.S. Post Office (and made into a medal by Medallic Art Co in 1963). His reticence for publicity was so severe he remained unknown for nearly a century.  He was in contrast to sculptor Warner Williams of Indiana who was a virtual  publicity hound.

You travel in social circles of top decision makers.

The most notable sculptor I know who carried this trait to extreme was Felix de Weldon. He moved to Washington DC, made the effort to meet and socialize with decision makers in the nation’s capitol. The effort won for him several monument commissions, including Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima. He also was just as comfortable on Long Island’s gold coast as Martha’s Vineyard. He met the people who could afford his work.

You dream in relief, often with captions to the images. 

I have asked this question every time I interview an artist. The answer is always yes. I follow it up “Do you dream in color?” It seems painters do, sculptors don’t. Marcel Jovine told me dreaming is the source of inspiration. The artist has a conscious perception of his work at hand, this filters into his subconscious where his mind is constantly analyzing the problem, even in his sleep. A solution occasionally surfaces in a dream. Jovine called this true inspiration.

What makes a Great Medallist?

Design. While the traits previously mentioned are common to most sculptor-medallists, to rise above other artists in the field, to become a really great medallist, an artist must become a master of design. The major characteristic of his work – of any motif, media or magnitude – is its design.

A great medallist is expected to be proficient in techniques, symbolism and creating images. How he puts it all together in his design is what the public views, frozen in time and preserved in immutable metal. Design is pre-eminent.

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