Evolution of the Arch
“Temporary” architecture was common for major celebrations in the late 19th century: most of the buildings for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (see Columbus in Central Park) were built to endure only for the length of the fair (1892-1893). New York had its share of such structures, including 4 arches erected in 1889 to honor the centennial of Washington’s inauguration.
The Republic of Greenwich Village
On January 23, 1917, John Sloan, Marcel Duchamp, and several other young artists of Greenwich Village (a mecca for artists and assorted bohemian types) sneaked into the side door of the Washington Arch and climbed to the top. There, having imbibed a fair amount of wine, they shot off pop guns and read a “Declaration of Independence” for Greenwich Village. The Declaration consisted of the word “whereas” repeated over and over and over and over - probably an inspiration of Duchamp, the Dadaist who named a urinal Fountain and entered it in exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917. For more on the Washington Arch escapade, see Ross Wetzsteon, Republi c of Dreams. Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960.
MacNeil (1866-1947, b. College Point, Queens) studied in Rome and Paris, then worked under Philip Martiny for the Columbian Exposition of 1893. His favorite subject was Native Americans (the Metropolitan Museum has a copy of his Sun Vow), but among his best known works are the 1907 McKinley Memorial in Columbus, Ohio and the pediment of the Supreme Court in Washington. MacNeil also designed the "Standing Liberty" quarter, minted from 1916 to 1930.
Manhattan has this figure of Washington as commander in chief on the Washington Arch. Queens has the Flushing War Memorial, 1920, and the Bronx has four busts in the Hall of Frame of Great Americans (BronxCommunity College).
Alexander Stirling Calder
Calder (1870-1945, b. Philadelphia), son of Scottish sculptor Alexander Milne Calder, studied with Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, then in Paris. He designed huge groups for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition before turning to garden and fountain sculptures.
Manhattan has Washington as President on the Washington Arch and four actresses on the Miller Building, ca. 1927-1929 (1552 Broadway; see web page on Verdi). He was the father of that very mobile sculptor Alexander Calder, whose Guichet, 1963, stands at Lincoln Center.
MacMonnies, creator of the brilliant Nathan Hale, did designs for the piers where the two Washingtons now stand, but only completed the allegorical figures for the 4 spandrels that flank the keystones of the arch.
Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante