The Melvin Memorial
An Encounter in Concord, Massachusetts
At last, I met Michael Richman! Who’s Michael Richman? Simply put is the most qualified to talk about Daniel Chester French. He has lived with his subject his entire adult life, and he’s one of the few scholars to have met the sculptor’s daughter when she was still living at Chesterwood, his summer-studio and retreat in the Berkshires, not far from Stockbridge where Arlo Guthrie (Remember Alice?), still as his home just a half a mile from the railroad track.
The meeting took place in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where we run into a man walking his dog, a man that seemed to know where all the bodies are buried. Hawthorne, Emerson, Alcott, and Daniel Chester French. But we didn’t drive all the way to concord to visit graves but a Cenotaph, a memorial dedicated to three of the Melvin brothers, local chaps who perished during the civil war. The Melvin Memorial is one of French’s most exquisite works, and unique example in many ways in America’s landscape of public works of art in the early 20th century.
The encounter with Michael Richman was brief, enough to recognize in each other as worthy partner to tackle a biographical portrayal of Daniel Chester French on a documentary film.
Next time I see Michael it will be at his place in Portland, Maine in October. By then we would have already talked for hours on the phone, and corresponded via email about The Melvin Memorial and so many other works of art chiseled by the man who brought us together today in Concord.