Updated: Jul 4, 2022
Stockbridge, MA – Chesterwood, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announces a new documentary film that explores the life and work of sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) by award-winning film maker Eduardo Montes-Bradley and the Heritage Film Project.
Daniel Chester French: American Sculptor will serve as an educational tool, build a worldwide audience for French’s work, and introduce the public to Chesterwood, the summer home, studio and gardens of the sculptor from 1896 to 1931. The film is set to premiere on May 26th at 7:00 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. Opening remarks will be presented by Michael Bobbitt, Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and a benefit dessert reception. Tickets will be available in March from www.mahaiwe.org
MEMORIAL DAY EVENT
On May 30th from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Chesterwood will celebrate the centennial of the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, French’s most iconic creation and one of the most visited memorials in the United States. A highlight of the historic studio at Chesterwood is French’s six-foot model of the seated Lincoln. Chesterwood encourages families to bring picnics and take part in family-friendly activities such as live music by the Berkshire Jazz Collective, a special Lincoln tour, and readings from the memorial dedication event 100 years ago, all at reduced admission. More information will be available in April at www.chesterwood.org
ABOUT THE FILM
Montes-Bradley is a writer, photographer and filmmaker, and a founding member of the Heritage Film Project, a production company located in Charlottesville, VA. Over the past thirty years he has produced and directed over fifty documentary films including film portraits of Rita Dove, Alice Parker, Julian Bond, Evita (Eva Peron), Monroe Hill, and Jorge Luis Borges. “When I was approached by Dan Preston and Michael Richman, editors of the Daniel Chester French papers, with the idea of making a documentary, I had only a vague idea of who he was. I was familiar with most of French’s work, but little did I know about the man behind the monuments,” remarked Montes-Bradley, “As with many sculptors, French’s name was living under the shadow of his accomplishments, many of which have had major historical implications.” Montes-Bradley will include interviews with several French scholars, including Michael Richman, the curator of the first major exhibition and catalogue of French’s work, Daniel Chester French: An American Sculptor (Metropolitan Museum of Art 1976) and Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, author of the recently published biography, Monument Man: The Life and Art of Daniel Chester French (Princeton Architectural Press 2019).
The film will be the first-ever documentary to focus on French, including his formative years studying with May Alcott, his neighbor in Concord, MA; apprenticing with American sculptor Thomas Ball in Florence, Italy; establishing a studio in Greenwich Village and then finding his true creative home at Chesterwood in Stockbridge, MA where he built a new studio, home and gardens that he fondly referred to as “six months in heaven.” The film will look at the aesthetic and political significance of French’s hundreds of public sculptures, such as the Minute Man in Concord, MA, the John Harvard at Harvard University, the Alma Mater at Columbia University, the Richard Morris Hunt Memorial on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the General George Washington on the Place d’Iléna in Paris, and the universally known seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D. C., one of the most significant temples to American democracy, a site for peaceful assembly in times of hope and despair.
Filming locations are in Stockbridge, MA, Concord, MA, Washington D.C. and Florence, Italy. Diane Pearlman of the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative is the local line producer in the Berkshires. The documentary will be entered into several independent film competitions, and after its official premiere it will be distributed through Kanopy, a video streaming service available the libraries and universities worldwide.
ABOUT THE PANEL DISCUSSION
Immediately following the film screening, Montes-Bradley will be joined by Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer and American art specialist, Dr. Thayer Tolles, to discuss the film. Holzer is the author of Monument Man: The Life and Art of Daniel Chester French; and a leading authority of Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the civil war era. Dr. Tolles is the Marcia F. Vilcek Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she served as editor and co-author of a two-volume catalogue of the Museum’s historic American sculpture collection.
Significant support for the film to date has come from the Morris and Alma Schapiro Foundation, Jeannene Booher, Anita Heller and Elizabeth Pyle, Nancy Sheridan Kojima, Hank and Louise Leander, Hans and Kate Morris, Joel Rosenkranz | Conner-Rosenkranz LLC, Elsie Thompson, Terry and Jay Wise, and several friends of Chesterwood.
For more information about the film or to become an underwriter, please contact Executive Director, Donna Hassler, at 413-298-2031 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Chesterwood, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 1969, is best known as the studio where Daniel Chester French modeled the seated figure of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., but he also had a passion and talent for garden and landscape design. While living at Chesterwood from May through October for over 30 years, French invited family and friends to spend time in his gardens and forest for inspiration and relaxation. He situated his home and studio to face the magnificent view of the north side of Monument Mountain, framing different aspects of the view from the studio piazza, the garden pergola and the porches of the main house. French also spent hours designing and working on his formal studio garden, with its lauded peony and hydrangea-tree allée, and created woodland trails that culminated in a cleared ledge with a view looking northeast to the October Mountain range.
Chesterwood is notably one of the earliest venues in the United States to showcase large-scale works in an outdoor setting. Since 1978, over 600 emerging and established artists’ works have been exhibited at Chesterwood. Situated on 122 acres in the idyllic hamlet of Glendale near Stockbridge, Mass., the property and its buildings were donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by French’s only child Margaret French Cresson (1889-1973). Chesterwood is recognized as both a National Historic Landmark and a Massachusetts Historic Landmark. For more information and resources about the life and art of Daniel Chester French as well as photos and videos, please visit www.Chesterwood.org
ABOUT THE BERKSHIRES
Less than three hours from New York City and Boston, the Berkshires offers culture and adventure year-round. The surrounding mountains provide plenty of opportunity for outdoor excursions in all seasons while world class culture and entertainment, along with a deeply rooted food culture and an array of lodging options amidst picturesque towns, set this region apart. For more information, see www.berkshires.org or www.stockbridgechamber.org.
Contact: Margaret Cherin, Senior Site Manager
(413) 298-2034 (o) (413) 446-9741 (m)