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ArtNet / Art World

Do You Know Who Designed the Lincoln Memorial Statue? A New Documentary About an Often Forgotten Sculptor Aims to Fix That

Daniel Chester French's work is embedded into the civic landscape of the United States, says the film's director Eduardo Montes-Bradley.

by Sarah Cascone

You may not know the name Daniel Chester French, but you absolutely know his work. The American Renaissance sculptor designed Abraham Lincoln, the larger-than-life seated statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as other monuments across the U.S.

French was one of the leading lights of the American Renaissance(1876 to 1917), which his career neatly bookends. His first mature commission, the Minute Man memorial in Concord, Massachusetts, came in 1875; Abraham Lincoln, perhaps his last major work, in 1920.

In his day, French was championed by the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson and studied in Florence on his way to nationwide fame. Now, his forgotten legacy has been unearthed in a new documentary by filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley.

But Daniel Chester French: American Sculptor also highlights other figures whose contributions to the nation’s monuments were never properly recognized—the Italian artisans who brought artists’ designs to life in marble, and the models who posed for the sculptures, such Hettie Anderson, an African American woman whose face is immortalized in major civic works by French and many of his contemporaries.

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