Cyrus Dallin (1861 - 1944) was born in a log cabin in Springville, Utah in 1861 to Mormon parents. Dallin was awed by the Ute Indians that lived around the area in which he grew up. He became close friends with many of the Indian youths and spent much of his time playing games with them. When he became tired of playing he would set with the young Indians and they would make clay sculptures of the animals of the plains that were all around them.
This was the beginning of a long career in sculpture. Dallin was very impressed by the culture, civilization and humor of the Ute that he met and this developed in to a great respect for them. When he was eighteen he went to work in the silver mines in the Tantic district. It was while he was working there that he discover a vein of fine white talc clay with which he modeled two heads that delighted the other miners, the towns people and the wealthy mine owner C. H. Blanchard who offered to pay for Cyrus to travel to Boston in order to further his talent in art. On this train journey he traveled with a delegation of Crow Indians who were on their way to Washington to air their grievances and he became good friends with several of them In Boston he studied under the sculptor Truman Bartlett, paying his way by making wax heads for department stores. Within two years he had developed to the point that he opened his own studio where he specialized in portrait busts and statues.
In 1884 Dallin made his first sculpture of an Indian title Indian Chief. He traveled to France in 1888 as was popular at the time and enrolled in the Academie Julian. When Buffalo Bill and the Wild West Show came to Paris in 1889 he spent much of his time with the Indians talking to them and modeling them in clay. It was in this year that he completed the first of his four Indian equestrian masterpieces titled The Signal of Peace, which he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1890. He entered it again in 1893 Chicago Exhibition and it so impressed Judge Lambert Tree of Chicago that he Commissioned a life size sculpture for the Lincoln Park in Chicago where it is still located today.
By this time Dallin was recognized as one of the finest American sculptors of all time and was elected to the National Sculpture Society. He returned to Utah to create the Brigham Young Pioneer Monument and on his return to the East settled in Philadelphia where he became an instructor at the Drexel Institute of Technology until his return to Paris in 1897. He entered the second of his great Indian equestrian masterpieces titled The Medicine Man in the 1900 Paris exposition where it won the Gold Medal. A monument of The Medicine Man was purchased by the city of Philadelphia and erected in Fairmount Park. Dallin exhibited the third Indian equestrian statue titled The Protest at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition.
After his return from Paris he took up a position with the Massachusetts State Normal Art School as an instructor and created his fourth Indian equestrian masterpiece titled Appeal to the Great Spirit, which was erected outside of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Dallin's intimate knowledge of his subjects as well as his personal involvement in the plight of the Indians gives his sculpture a dramatic presence which captures the viewer and holds them in awe.
The life of Cyrus Dallin is documented in the following books:
Dictionary of American Sculptors by Glenn Opitz
Masters of American Sculpture by Donald M. Reynolds
Bronzes of the American West by Patricia Broder (1973)
Exhibition of American Sculpture Catalogue by the National Sculpture Society (1923)
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