Abraham Lincoln statue returning home to New Hampshire
CONCORD, N.H. — More than a century after the promise of "plenty of Lincoln-shaped men" attracted one of the greatest sculptors of the late 19th century to rural New Hampshire, a replica of his famed monument to the fallen president is being installed on the grounds of his former home and studio.
"Abraham Lincoln: The Man" — more commonly referred to as "Standing Lincoln" — was commissioned in 1884 for Lincoln Park in Chicago. The 12-foot bronze statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens shows a larger-than-life Lincoln standing in front of a chair, head slightly bowed, left hand grasping the lapel of his coat. Dedicated in 1887, it was greeted with uniform respect, said Thayer Tolles, curator of American paintings and sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, deemed it the best likeness of his father ever made.
"I really think it was the Standing Lincoln that really put him on the map in a national way," said Tolles. "This is the likeness of Lincoln that all other artists after that aspired to emulate and were moved by."
She called the June 26 unveiling of the replica "thrilling." The ceremony will be part of the celebration of the National Park Service's centennial.
Born in 1848, Saint-Gaudens grew up in New York and returned there after studying in Paris. In 1885, his attorney and friend persuaded him to visit what would become his longtime summer retreat in Cornish, New Hampshire, by telling him there were "plenty of Lincoln-shaped men up there." Saint-Gaudens ended up using a 6-foot-4-inch farmer from nearby Windsor, Vermont, as his model, even having him walk through fields and mud wearing clothing similar to Lincoln's to obtain the president's slightly rumpled look.
Saint-Gaudens also relied on a life mask of Lincoln's face and casts of Lincoln's hands, as well as his own memories of the president. As a teen, Saint-Gaudens had seen the president-elect during a parade in New York and later viewed Lincoln's body lying in state, said Tolles.
This isn't the first time the monument has been recast. A replica was presented to Great Britain in 1920, and in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson presented a copy to Mexico. Johnson later signed the legislation creating the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Site in Cornish, which includes the sculptor's home, studio and gardens.
"The "Standing Lincoln" became the first large public monument that Saint-Gaudens completed in Cornish, according to Rick Kendall, the site's superintendent.
"He fell in love with Cornish, continued to come back in the summers year after year and finally made it his full-time home around 1900," said Rick Kendall, the site's superintendent. "Lincoln is really why we have a national park in Cornish today."
The statue will be installed atop a 43,000-pound base of New Hampshire granite, and will be the first sculpture visitors see when they arrive, Kendall said.
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