- James Earle Fraser (sculptor)
Life and career
Fraser was born in
Winona, Minnesota. His father, Thomas Fraser, was an engineerwho worked for railroad companies as they expanded across the American West. Fraser was part of a group sent out to recover the remains of the 7th Cavalry Regiment following George Armstrong Custer's disastrous engagement with the Lakota, and Arapahoforces at the Battle of the Little Bighornjust a few months before James Fraser's birth.
Fraser was exposed to the frontier life and Native Americans, who were being pushed ever further west or confined to
Indian reservations. These early memories were expressed in his work, such as "End of the Trail" and the Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel.
carvingfigures from pieces of limestonescavenged from a stone quarryclose to his home near Mitchell, South Dakotain early life. After it became apparent to the family that he was serious about pursuing sculpture as a career Fraser began working as an assistant to sculptor Richard Bockand attending classes at the Art Institute of Chicagoat age 14 (by that time Chicago). Fraser arrived at a time when he could participate in much artistic work associated with the World's Columbian Exposition. This World's Fairinvolved the production of massive amount of architectural sculptures.
In 1895 Bock helped his assistant gain admission to the
École des Beaux-Artsin Paris, where Fraser worked under well-known French sculptor Alexandre Falguière. It was while he was working and studying in Paris that Fraser came to the attention of Augustus Saint Gaudenswho was always looking for capable assistants. St. Gaudens was in Paris at that time, and engaged Fraser to assist him on his General Sherman Monument, which was eventually erected at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Central Park.
Having worked for Saint Gaudens for four years, Fraser left his master in 1902 and set up his own studio in New York, where he was to maintain a studio for over half a century. Shortly thereafter he began teaching at the Art Students League. Saint Gauden's effect on his work at this time was profound, and much of his early works were bas-relief portraits, frequently of people referred to him by the always over-booked Saint Gaudens. At that time Fraser also developed a reputation as a
numismatist, creating his best-known and certainly his most circulated work – the Indian Head or "Buffalo" nickel – in 1913. This coin was discontinued after 1938, but has since been reprised in 2001 on a US commemorative coin, and more recently on a gold buffalo one ounce gold bullion coin. Almost as well known in its day, but largely overlooked now, was his Victory Medal produced in 1919 to commemorate the closing of the First World War. Over five million were struck at that time.In 1913 Fraser married a former student of his, Laura Gardin Fraser, who remained his partner for the rest of his life and was a highly respected sculptor in her own right.
It was for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915 that Fraser produced his most recognized work, the doleful "End of the Trail." While intended to be cast in bronze, material shortages due to the war prevented this, and the original plaster statue slowly deteriorated until it was obtained by the
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museumin 1968 and restored. The restored statue is currently on display in the entryway of the Oklahoma Citymuseum, and the original that sat in Visalia, CA, was replaced with a bronze replica. [http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/g_trai.html National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum] page on "End of the Trail"]
Fraser was later to remark that he should have copyrighted the image and that many people, painters, print and calendar makers and even other sculptors, made more profit from this work than he did.
During the early years of the 20th century his style also changed from the impressionistic realism that he had inherited from Saint Gaudens to a more modern style, with smoother lines, less complicated silhouettes and less detailed surfaces. However, although Fraser had several pieces in the
Armory Showof 1913 and despite the fact that he was considered among the ranks of sculpture’s "modernists" at the time, he quickly fell out of step with the artists who continued working towards an increasingly abstract style. Following the end of the First World War Fraser’s attention turned to larger works, public monuments and architectural sculpture.
Although by the 1930s Fraser’s style of realism was no longer in vogue and architectural sculpture was no longer called for, he nonetheless stayed in demand. His last major installation, two large groups, "The Peaceful Arts" for the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C. had in fact been sculpted years before but had seen their installation delayed because of the Second World War.
Muralist Barry Faulkner, a friend of Fraser’s from their days in Paris together described Fraser like this:"His character was like a good piece of Scotch tweed, handsome, durable and warm." [see Wilkonson, References]
* 1908 Recumbent figure of Bishop Potter,
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York, Manhattan
Frederick KeepMonument, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
John HayMemorial, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, OH
* 1920 "Canadian Officer",
Bank of Montreal, Winnipeg, Manitoba
* 1920 Symbolic figures, Elks Memorial,
Alexander HamiltonStatue, Department of CommerceBuilding, Washington, D.C.
John Ericsson National Memorial, East Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.
* 1926 "Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark",
Missouri State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO
Abraham Lincoln( Jersey City, New Jersey, and Syracuse, New York, 1930)
* 1936 Second Division Memorial, The Ellipse,
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA
* 1940 Theodore Roosevelt
equestrian sculpture, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West, Manhattan
Albert Gallatinstatue, Department of CommerceBuilding, Washington, D.C.
Benjamin FranklinStatue, Franklin Insurance Company, Springfield, IL
Thomas A. EdisonStatue, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI
* 1951 General
George S. Patton, United States Military Academy, [West Point, NY] , and Hatch Shell, Boston, MA
* 1951 "Music & Harvest",
Arts of Peace, Washington, D.C.
* 1951 "Aspiration & Literature",
Arts of Peace, Washington, D.C.
elected architectural sculpture
* 1928 Discovers & Pioneers, Michigan Avenue Bridge,
Robert Todd LincolnSarcophagus, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA
William Howard TaftMonument, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
* 1934 Pediments for the Department of Commerce Building,
* 1935 Recorder of the Archive, Pediment, National Archives Building,
* 1935 "Heritage" & "Guardian",
National ArchivesBuilding, Washington, D.C.
* 1935 "Contemplation of Justice" & "Authority of Law",
United States Supreme Court building, Washington, D.C.
* 1940 attic figures of
Meriwether Lewis, George Rogers Clark, Daniel Booneand John James Audubon, American Museum of Natural History, New York City
List of Saltus Award winners
*Armstrong, Craven, et al, "200 Years of American Sculpture", Whitney Museum of Art, NYC, 1976
*Bock, Richard W., "Memoirs of an American Artist", ed. Dorathi Bock Pierre, C.C. Publishing Co., Los Angeles CA 1991
*Craven, Wayne, "Sculpture in America", Thomas Y. Crowell Co, NY, NY 1968
*Freundlich, A.L.,"The Sculpture of James Earle Fraser", Universal Publishers / uPublish.com USA 2001
*Goode, James M. "The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington D.C.", Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington D.C. 1974
*Gurney, George," Sculpture and the Federal Triangle", Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington D.C. 1985
*Krakell, Dean, "End of the Trail: the Odyssey of a Statue", University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma 1973
*Kvaran,, Einar Einarsson," Architectural Sculpture in America", unpublished manuscript
*McSpadden, J. Walker, "Famous Sculptors of America", Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc. New York 1924
*National Sculpture Society, "Contemporary American Sculpture", The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, San Francisco, The National Sculpture Society 1929
*Neuhaus, Eugen, E.," Art of the Exposition", Paul Elder and Company, San Francisco 1915
*Proske, Beatrice Gilman, "Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture", Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, 1968
*Reynalds, Donald Martin, "Masters of American Sculpture: The Figurative Tradition From the American Renaissance to the Millennium", Abbeville Press, NY 1993
*Taft, Lorado, "The History of American Sculpture", MacMillan Co., New York, NY 1925
*Wilkinson, Burke, and David Finn, photographs, " Uncommon Clay: The Life and Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens", Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, San Diego 1985
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