Daniel Chester French: MIT dropout turned sculptor

September 25th, 2013

One of America’s most prolific sculptors, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) is best known for his sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. Lesser known is the fact that in the 1870s French was briefly a student at MIT. After only one year at the Institute, French decided to leave higher education and pursue his artistic passions.

In 1874, the town of Concord, Massachusetts, commissioned the then 23-year-old French to sculpt the Minute Man in honor of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Following this success, he went on to create numerous memorials and sculptures around the United States.

Among his more notable public monuments is the statue of Reverend John Harvard, located at Harvard University. Although the Chester estate says photographs of Harvard’s descendents were the actual basis for this representation, folklore claims that French modeled the statue after one of his MIT classmates.

See more of Daniel Chester French’s work:

Chesterwood, the official Daniel French website.

Sculpture in Situ, a collection of photographs taken by Douglas Yeo.

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