Daniel Chester French
French in 1902
Born(1850-04-20)April 20, 1850
DiedOctober 7, 1931(1931-10-07) (aged 81)
EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Known forSculpture
Notable workAbraham Lincoln
MovementAmerican Renaissance
Patron(s)Hiram Powers, Thomas Ball
America, one of the Four Continents at The Alexander Hamilton Custom House, Bowling Green, New York City

Daniel Chester French (April 20, 1850 – October 7, 1931) was an American sculptor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is best known for his 1874 sculpture The Minute Man in Concord, Massachusetts, and his 1920 monumental statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.


French was the son of Anne Richardson (1811–1856), daughter of William Merchant Richardson (1774–1838), chief justice of New Hampshire; and of Henry Flagg French (1813–1885). His siblings were Henriette Van Mater French Hollis (1839–1911), Sarah Flagg French Bartlett (1846–1883), and William M.R. French (1843–1914). He was the uncle of Senator Henry F. Hollis.

Life and career

French was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, to Henry Flagg French (1813–1885), a lawyer, judge, Assistant US Treasury Secretary, and author of a book that described the French drain,[1] and his wife Anne Richardson.[2] In 1867, French moved with his family to Concord, Massachusetts,[3] where he was a neighbor and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Alcott family. His decision to pursue sculpting was influenced by Louisa May Alcott's sister Abigail May Alcott.

French in his studio with the model for Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell, c. 1889, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC

French's early education included training in anatomy with William Rimmer and in drawing with William Morris Hunt. French spent a year studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also several years in Florence, Italy, studying in the studio of Thomas Ball. French first earned acclaim for The Minute Man, commissioned by the town of Concord, Massachusetts, which was unveiled April 19, 1875, on the centenary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He soon established his own studio, first in Washington, DC, moving later to Boston and then to New York City. French's reputation grew with his Statue of the Republic for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago. Other memorable works by French include: the First Division Monument and the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain in Washington; John Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts; bronze doors for the Boston Public Library; and Four Continents at the US Custom House, New York (now the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House). In addition to the Lincoln Memorial, French collaborated with architect Henry Bacon on numerous memorials around the country and on the Dupont Circle fountain in Washington, DC.

Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, French's summer home, studio, and gardens, now a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

In 1893, French was a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and he was appointed a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1913.[4] During this time, he served as an instructor at the Art Students League of New York, teaching sculpture there in 1890 and 1898.[5][6] French also became a member of the National Academy of Design (1901), the American Academy of Arts and Letters (which awarded him the Gold Medal for Sculpture in 1917), the Architectural League, and the Accademia di San Luca, of Rome. He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and a co-founder of the American Academy in Rome. He was a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and was awarded a medal of honor from the Paris Exposition of 1900; he also was granted honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, and Columbia universities. He was a founding member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, serving from 1910 to 1915, including as chairman from 1912 to 1915.[7]

In 1917, French and a colleague, Henry Augustus Lukeman, designed the Pulitzer Prize gold medal presented to laureates. French designed the side of the prize with Benjamin Franklin on it, while Lukeman created the iconic design of the printing press and the wording on the award: "For disinterested and meritorious public service rendered by an American newspaper during the year….".[8] In collaboration with Edward Clark Potter he modeled the George Washington statue, commissioned by a group that called itself "The Association of American Women for the Erection of a Statue of Washington in Paris" and unveiled in the Place d'Iena in Paris, France, in 1900; the General Grant statue in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, commissioned by the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association);[9] and the equestrian statue of Joseph Hooker in Boston.

French was one of many sculptors who frequently employed Audrey Munson as a model; another frequent sitter was Hettie Anderson. Together with Walter Leighton Clark and others, he was also one of the founders of the Berkshire Playhouse,[10] which later became the Berkshire Theatre Festival. French's daughter, Margaret, also occasionally modeled for him, including for some of his rare portrait paintings, and became famous in her own right as a sculptor under the name Margaret French Cresson. In 1917, Harvard's citation in conferring an honorary Master of Arts referred to his statue of Emerson[clarification needed][11] when it called him "a sculptor, whose skillful hand, unlike that of the friend whom he portrayed, has not been stopped but spared to adorn our land by the creation of his art".[12][13] French also taught; among his pupils was the sculptor Edith Howland.[14]

French died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1931 at age 81. He is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord.[15]



Notable public monuments

Abraham Lincoln (1920) in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
The Minute Man (1874) in Concord, Massachusetts
Alma Mater (1903), Columbia University, Manhattan, New York City


Architectural sculpture

Death and the Sculptor (1893), Boston
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Alice Cogswell (1889), Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
Justice (1900) adorns the pediment of the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State in Manhattan
Law, Prosperity, and Power (1880–1884), West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.[22]

Cemetery monuments

Angel of Peace – for George Robert White, Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, (1898)

Selected museum pieces

Miscellaneous pieces


  1. ^ French, Henry F. (1859). Farm drainage: the principles, processes, and effects of draining land with stones, wood, plows, and open ditches, and especially with tiles. New York: Orange Judd & Company.
  2. ^ Leonard, John W. (1908). "French, Daniel Chester". Men of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries. 1: 924.
  3. ^ Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "French, Daniel Chester" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter F" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "Daniel Chester French (1850–1931)". Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  6. ^ The Art Students League of NY [@aslny] (April 21, 2023). "Happy birthday to League artist Daniel Chester French (1850—1931) best known for creating the Lincoln Memorial". Retrieved December 22, 2023 – via Instagram.
  7. ^ Luebke, Thomas E., ed., Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2013): Appendix B, p. 544.
  8. ^ Homren, Wayne (April 11, 2004). "Pulitzer Secrets Revealed". The E-Sylum. 7 (15, art. 5). Retrieved July 1, 2007.
  9. ^ Bach, Penny (1992). Public Art in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. p. 208. ISBN 0-87722-822-1.
  10. ^ "Arts & Entertainment In The Berkshires". Archived from the original on June 28, 2009.
  11. ^ "Harvard Alumni Bulletin". Harvard Bulletin, Incorporated. January 1, 1916 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Callan, Richard L. 100 Years of Solitude: John Harvard Finishes His First Century. The Harvard Crimson. April 28, 1984. Retrieved October 13, 2012
  13. ^ Harvard Alumni Bulletin v.19
  14. ^ Jules Heller; Nancy G. Heller (December 19, 2013). North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-63882-5.
  15. ^ "Grave of Daniel Chester French", New England Travel Planner; accessed 2023.06.29.
  16. ^ "Chesterwood – National Trust for Historic Preservation".
  17. ^ "1847usa.com".
  18. ^ Chicago Landmarks | Statue of The Republic Archived December 26, 2008, at the Wayback Machine at www.ci.chi.il.us
  19. ^ "Lincoln Memorial National Memorial—Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures Explore their Stories in the National Park System: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary".
  20. ^ "Around New England: The Weaver of Peace Dale".
  21. ^ Ramsey Al-Rikabi (June 12, 2007). "Seward's bust gets busted". Times Herald-Record. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  22. ^ (Law, Prosperity, and Power, SIRIS)
  23. ^ "Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society". www.lwhs.us. Archived from the original on March 11, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2016.

Further reading