Karl Bitter was a part of what Augustus Saint Gaudens called "the greatest meeting of artists since the Renaissance."  Bitter was a sculptor at the Worlds Columbian Exposition.  Turn of the Century hyperbola is infamous.Still, Saint Gaudens is recognized, even now, as a significant talent whose opinion is to be respected. And somehow, the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago still captures our imaginations today.
None of Bitter's art survives in Chicago. But it was his work here that sealed his reputation and a lifetime of succcessful commissions. Bitter was a major contributor to the Dewey Arch in Manhattan's Madison Square.  He worked with Richard Morris Hunt on the East Doors at Trinity Church and at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville: with Cass Gilbert at the US Customs House in New York; and with George Post at the Cleveland Trust and the Wisconsin State Capital.

After the Chicago Fair, Bitter went on to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis and the Pan Pacific in San Francisco. He was killed, at the height of his career, in a traffic accident in New York. His final commission, the Depew Memorial Fountain, which was completed by Alexander Stirling Calder.


 Most of Bitter's work is lost.  The Arch. His work at the Fairs. Still there are important glimpses of his art.  And some small confirmation that Saint Gaudens assessment of the talent that surrounded him -- in Jackson Park, in the summer of 1892 --  wasn't so far off the mark.




A well crafted bronze placque spans the entrance of the London Guarantee Building at 360 North Michigan Avenue.  On the left there is a highly stylized Native American of some significant stature.  In the center: Fort Dearborn.  To the right, a boy-next-door in buckskin completes the composition.
The contrasting vision goes well beyond facial features.  The settler's weapons are specific:  two hand pistols, a rifle, and a powder horn.  The Indian holds a container of feathers, that I would assume, are arrows. And a shield.
Is this the work of two sculptors (neither credited) working in disparate styles?  Or one, making a cultural statement at the corner of Michigan and Wacker in 1922? (Click on Images to see more)




Hermon Atkins MacNeil died at his Long Island Studio on October 2, 1947.  Unable to transition from his Beaux Arts training to a more "modern" style, he had not had a major commission for nearly 15 years.  When he died, the contents of the studio was "hauled out to the dump" (where, much of the collection was salvaged by neighbor, illustrator John A. Coughlin who later donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.)  It hadn't always been that way.

In 1891, 25 year old MacNeil came West.  To Chicago.  Where he assisted Philip Martiny with sculpture at the Electricity Building at the World's Columbian Exposition.  And, where, on the Midway, he met Black Pipe, an Ogalla Sioux,  performing at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.  Native Americans and their culture became the inspiration for MacNeil's art for years to come.  By late 1895 he was on his way to Monument Valley  with Hamlin Garland and C.F. Browne -- after working with Edward Kemeys at the Marquette (and no doubt hearing stories of Kemeys Wyoming adventures some 20 years earlier). 
The travels West were just the beginning.  By 1896 he had married Carol Brooks (one of Lorado Taft's "White Rabbits  - and a sculptor in her own right") and had taken up residence at the American Academy in Rome.  He won the Prixe de Rome in 1899.  And entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1900.  By 1901 he and Carol (with their two children) had returned to America and established their studio on Long Island.  With an entire career before them.

An entire career before them.  National in scope.. Beaux Arts in inspiration.  MacNeil returned to Chicago in 1909, briefly,  for the Cook County Seal Commission.

But my favorite remains his work in 1895.  In Chicago.  Where inspiration, youth, opportunity, and a beautiful, capable wife converged with the past and the future -- at the Marquette Building.

The man front and center is Black Pipe.  Warrior of the Ogalla Sioux.  Memorialized at 140 South Dearborn Street. Bearing the coffin of Father Marquette.  See the entire collection of  Marquette photos at the CHICAGO LOOP.ORG




From 1904, when they met in St. Louis, until 1927, Leon Hermant and Carl Beil were partners at their Sculpture Studio at 21 East Pearson Street in Chicago.  Leon was the Artist.  Carl, the "Executioner.'  Hermant continued his art after Beil's death in 1927, receiving a major commission for the Indiana State Library in 1934.  His images were carved, in Indianapolis, by German sculptor Adolph Wolter. Below are seven small panels from the East and North Facades of the Library.

Where credit for any work of art ends with the artist and begins with technnician is an interesting question.  What would Louis Sullivan be without Christian Schneider?  Or Lorado Taft without Jules Bercham?  Each of these seven vignettes is charming, attractive -- but seem to lack the strength of Hermant's  earlier work with Beil at the Medinah Athletic or  Illinois Athletic Club. Was it a broken partnership or simply the inability of a Beaux Arts artist to enter the new world of Deco? 



"It does not prove a thing to be right because the majority say it is so."  FRIEDRICH SCHILLER

I have been fascinated by Richard Nickel's photographs of the Portrait Busts, taken just prior to demolition at the Schiller Building.  And even more fascinated by the Busts themselves.  How is it possible that these important fragments from what is arguably one of the most important buildings produced by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan have ended up scattered across the City instead of enshrined on the Grand Staircase at the Art Institute of Chicago?

 Who cares?  Anybody?



And even with a little research, even more questions surface.  Who sculpted them?  Who do they depict?  Reidy attributes the Busts to Richard Bock.  But Bock's autobiography, edited by his daughter Dorothi mentions only the Schiller's interior tympanums.  A later monograph by Chicago historians John Vinci and Timothy Samuelson credit the modeling to Frederick Almenraeder (Bock's mentor and later co-worker at North Western).  But the North Western Terra Cotta records that might have confirmed that, as well as who the Busts depict, were lost in a fire. 

Photographs show twelve busts at the second floor with as many as 24 near the tower cornice. (Some, of course, may have been duplicates.)  And yet, I've only discovered 7 extant (including the one I just learned of on Geneva Terrace).  Where are the rest?  Rumors abound.  And speculation. Lot's of speculation.
So here's mine.  (Why not?)  Almenraeder and Bock may well have worked on these portrait heads together -- all the heads are good, but not stylistically consistent. (I'll give the more Baroque "Engels" to Ecole trained, Bock.)  Bock and  Almenraeder were friends and both had simultaneous formalized assignments on the Schiller Building -- and the Portrait commission was too big for one person. As for the identity, I'll trust Bob Burton's research for four of them as follows:

Fritz Reuter

Yaakov Liebmann Meyerbeer

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Gotthold Ephram Lessing

And for the following two, I suggest these for your consideration:

Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Schiller

And for the location of the remaining work?  Richard Nickel knows.  Knows where every one of them are.  And is holding on to that secret until he knows that these fragments of history and art will be appreciated.  And safe.  Which may just be a very, very long time.






With a sculptor so closely associated with Chicago, as certainly is Daniel Chester French, it is possible to believe that he belongs to us.


His statue "The Republic" overlooked the Grand Basin (and the Manufacturer's Building ) at the World's Columbian Exhibition in 1893 and its golden replica (now a Chicago Landmark) dominates East Hayes Drive in Jackson Park.  The original was second in size only to New York's Statue of Liberty.  (And here I'll have to admit that I can't imagine Daniel Burnham building the "second biggest" anything -- especially with New York as the competition.)  But still, almost as big  WAS still big.

 I stumbled onto French's allegorical works "Manhattan" and "Brooklyn," while researching the "1917 American Architect."   Daniel Chester French's sculpture is national in scope.  With a  substantial amount of work in New York.  I shouldn't have been surprised.
"BROOKLYN" at the Manhattan Bridge
"MANHATTAN" at the Manhattan Bridge.  (Is that a peacock I see?)

Chicago has a history of bringing home the best.  And making it our own.



Gustave Eiffel is most famously credited with the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty.  But it was Norwegian born structural engineer Joachim Giaver, who, while chief engineer for the Schiffler Bridge Company of Pittsburgh, designed the internal framework. Giaver went on to become William Shankland's assistant at the Columbian Exposition, where he is credited with the design of the largest three hinge arch in the world  --  at the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building.  Daniel Burnham didn't waste any time after the fair. He hired Giaver at D.H. Burnham & Company -- where he engineered innovative foundations and structural steel frames for Burnham's classic skyscrapers for seventeen years (before setting up independent shop with Burnham designer Frederick Dinkelberg.)


A reputation earned at the Columbian Exposition could support a lifelong career.  Carl Beil, Superintendent of Sculpture at the Chicago Fair formed a long and successful partnership with Leon Hermant (French Sculptor at the Saint Louis Fair).  To see their work in Chicago, link <HERE>


I would really like a photograph of Carl Beil!


Architect Peter Weber assisted Charles Atwood at the Chicago World's Fair and later at D.H. Burnham & Company.  He worked under his own name after 1902.  His work, at all places, however, is so personally consistent that he may not be getting the full credit due for his work. 

Animal Bridge. Jackson Park.  Peter Weber 1903

Animal Bridge. Jackson Park.  Peter Weber 1903

Gargoyle. Fisher Building. D.H. Burnham and Co.1896

The fantastic creatures on South Dearborn and in Jackson Park are surely from the same fertile imagination.  For more information on the Animal Bridge, link HERE.