Friday, March 16, 2007

The Continents (OMOM Essay 4): Out-takes, Bibliography, Discussion Questions

Sorting through my notes on Daniel Chester French's Continents this past week, I found a massive amount of material that I regretted having to leave out of the book - mostly early descriptions and speculation about the meaning of the sculptures. That material is now available on the Forgotten Delights site, along with a dozen or so photos of details of the sculptures that simply wouldn't fit in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan.

The passages that most involved me all have to do with handling criticism. Here they are.

Daniel Chester French to his wife, explaining how he deals with committees: “But they don’t know what they like,” commented Dan. “Very few people do. They have to be educated up to it. When they’ve studied a little and seen a good deal, and listened and thought, then they may achieve a considered opinion, but certainly not before. … I never talk them down,” said Dan. “I know enough not to try. I simply suggest to them a better solution of their problem, and they usually have the wit to see it.” (from French's bio by his daughter, Margaret French Cresson)

From the New York Times, 1/14/1906; the reporter is responding to a criticism of the United States Customs House that appeared in a Boston paper. "It is frequently difficult to translate Bostonese. From the above one gathers that there is a transcendental something the matter with the new Custom House, although the building is at the same time thoroughly admirable and symmetrical - a consolatory kind of criticism that leaves one in a good humor and at the same time in a state of perplexity, 'restless,' as the building itself is said to be by this profound critic." ["A consolatory kind of criticism": I wish I'd thought of that phrase!]

And finally, a quote from Abraham Lincoln that was read by President Harding at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, whose seated Lincoln was the work of Daniel Chester French: "If I were trying to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the best I know how, the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing it to the end. If the end brings me out all right, that which is said against me will not amount to anything. If the end brings me out all wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."

No comments: