Frederick William MacMonnies (1863 - 1937) was born September 28th 1863 in Brooklyn Heights, New York. He studied art at an early age from his mother who was related to the famous painter Benjamin West. In 1880 at the age of seventeen he was employed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, first as a general helper and as he showed great promise later a studio assistant. He studied in the evenings at the both the National Academy of Design and The Art Students League. MacMonnies went to Paris in 1884 to study sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he excelled, winning in 1886 the Prix d'Atelier which was the highest award given to foreign students. He returned to New York and again worked for Saint-Gaudens for a year. MacMonnies returned once more to Paris where he was to stay until the outbreak of the First World War when he returned to the United States where he stayed until his death.
MacMonnies opened his studio in Paris in 1890 where he remained busy on his many American commissions which included the Nathan Hale monument for City Hall Park in New York. While in France he exhibited at the Salon and in 1891 he was awarded a Medal of the Second Class which up until that time had never been won by an American Sculptor. He created the Grand Barge of State for the central fountain at the Chicago World's Colombian Exposition in 1893, considered by many to have been the finest sculpture at the exposition. He was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Among the other honors bestowed upon him in France he was appointed a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and was also appointed a Chevalier of the Legion d' Honor. Although MacMonnies is an American sculptor the decades that he spent in France had a profound effect on his works. The founder Gruet cast most of his sculpture that he modeled in France. His works in the United States met with mixed feelings as many of the monuments that he was commissioned to install were of nudes and some were eventually removed to other not so public locations because of the public outcries.
The life of Frederick MacMonnies is documented in the following books:
A Flight with Fame: The life and Art of Frederick MacMonnies by M. Smart & E. Gordon (1996)
Drawn from Life by Sara Kimbrough (1976)
American Sculpture by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1965)
Dictionary of American Sculptors by Glenn Opitz
Masters of American Sculpture by Donald M. Reynolds
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