sculptor Laredo Taft observed in his authoritative
History of American Sculpture (1903) that,
"no one does Wild West subjects with the impressive
gravity which Mr. Dallin put into 'The Signal of
Peace' in Lincoln Park, Chicago and 'The Medicine
Man' in Fairmount Park, a conspicuous ornament of
Philadelphia's great pleasure-ground."
by Wayne Craven, University of Delaware
sculptor who more than any other captured the grave
dignity and the nobility of the American Indian
was Cyrus E. Dallin (1861-1944); his great series
of four equestrian statues carried the imagery of
the red man to its finest expression in sculptural
form. Dallin in these works achieved a true monumentality,
bestowing upon his subjects those innate qualities
that had been almost wholly obscured to the eyes
of the white man during the decades of hatred and
Dallin's parents were pioneers who in the 1850's
had moved into the vast prairies of the West and
helped to establish the little settlement of Springville,
about forty miles south of Salt Lake City. There,
in 1861, in the crude frontier town encircled by
a high adobe wall, Cyrus Edwin Dallin was born,
and there he grew up. The adobe wall w as never
needed for defense against the Utes who were commonly
found camping in the vicinity, and the sculptor
recalled many years later that while the rough and
boisterous cowboys frightened him on several occasions
when he was a little boy, the Indians never did.
On the contrary, young Cyrus played games with the
Indian boys and frequently went to their encampments
and into their wigwams; among other pastimes, they
would model little animals from the soft clay along
the riverbanks. As a youth, Cyrus came to respect
the red man, finding a beauty in his primitive arts,
as well as a dignity and integrity in his way of
life that was often lacking in the life of his own
people. Through the years of his teens, then, his
world was circumscribed by the raw life of the miners
and cowboys and by the solemn, proud Utes.
Young Dallin's father operated a mine in the beautiful
Wasatch Mountains. Cyrus, who worked at odd jobs
around the mine, was present one day when the men
struck a vein of white clay, and he soon modeled
two lumps of it into portrait heads. They attracted
the curiosity and admiration of the entire region,
and when they were shown at the local fair that
summer, they brought their creator his first patrons:
Two men put up the funds to cover the cost of Cyrus'
train fare to the East, plus a little spending money.
In the company of a group of Crow Indians, who were
headed for Washington, D.C., to see the "Great
White Father," Dallin journeyed across the
continent to Boston.
1880 overawed Dallin at first. But he was soon studying
with the sculptor Truman Bartlett, and assisting him
in his studio to help pay for his instruction. To
earn extra money, Dallin eventually found a job in
a nearby terracotta factory. After two years he opened
his own studio, which showed enough profit over the
next six years so that the sculptor could afford to
go to Paris for further study. From this period date
the earliest of his Indian subjects. One of these
won on a medal when it was shown at the American Art
Association in New York City in 1888. In the fall
of that year he went to France.
In Paris, the influences of Chapu and the Academie
Julian were apparent in Dallin's "Apollo and
Hyacinthus" and "Awakening of Spring";
these were academic subjects that meant little to
the man from the Utah Territory, but he persevered
in his studies in order to master technique and the
elements of composition. Then Buffalo Bill's Wild
West Show came to Paris in 1889, and Dallin rediscovered
the American Indian; he became the subject of Dallin's
first major statuethe "Signal of Peace,"
the first of his four great equestrian monuments.
Dallin later recounted:
The origin of that statue goes
back to my boyhood, to a day when I witnessed a
peace pow-wow between the Indian chiefs and the
United States Army Officers. I shall never forget
those splendid-looking Indians arrayed in their
gorgeous headdresses, riding up to the army camp
.... In making my model of "The Signal of Peace,"
I used, to a certain extent, one of the Buffalo
Bill Indians; in putting into it that dignity typical
of the Indian, I had in my memory the chiefs who
rode up to the peace pow-wow many years before.
Quoted from W. Long, "Dallin, Sculptor of Indians,"
representing his Indian chief with spear pointing
upward in a signal of peace, Dallin meant the group
to show the trust and good will the Indian offered
the white man at their first meeting. The head and
figure are truly those of the Indian, modeled with
a simple and strong naturalism and without the clever,
lively surface treatment of the French school. The
sculptor re-created the proud, brave warrior chieftain
as he had known him in his youth. Even the scrawny
pony is careful rendering of the kind ridden by
the Plains Indians.
to the Great Spirit
the "Signal of Peace" drew much favorable
comment from Parisians in 1890just before Dallin
returned to Boston with itit was at the Chicago
Columbian Exposition in 1893 that America became aware
of it. Judge Lambert Tree purchased the statue and
made a gift of it to the city of Chicago, where it
still stands in Lincoln Park. The group established
Dallin's place among the nation's most promising young
sculptors; and that same year he was elected to the
newly formed National Sculpture Society.
But he felt that he needed still more training, and
so in 1897 the Dallins departed for Paris. This time
Cyrus studied under Jean Dampt. Dallin was represented
at the Salon that year by a curious and charming little
equestrian statuette of Don Quixote, and the following
year by a marble bust of a young lady. But his interest
in Indian themes continued, and in 1898 he was working
on the second of his major equestrian monuments"Medicine
Man." It won high praise at the Salon of 1899
and was given a place of honor and a gold medal at
the great Paris Exposition of 1900. According to reports,
several Austrians were empowered to purchase it for
their country, only to be disappointed when it was
obtained for Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, where
it may be still seen today.
In Dallin's series, the "Medicine Man,"
unlike the naive chief of the "Signal of Peace,"
warns that there may be danger in the presence of
the white man on Indian lands. The expression on his
face and his upraised right hand suggest a solemnly
murmured incantation as he watches from his pinnacle
as still more white men with their women, children,
wagons, and livestock make their way farther and farther
into Indian territory. On seeing this statue, spectators
were impressed with the strong naturalism combined
with the moving sentiment of the group: The former
is a forceful image of the red man, without any modeling
tricks or display of virtuosity of style; the latter
epitomizes the strange, foreboding, yet heroic medicine
man. Critics and artists alike had long agreed that
the equestrian group was the sculptor's greatest challenge,
and in the "Medicine Man" Dallin carried
the Indian theme to a truly monumental level of artistry.
No one had accomplished that before; other attempts
at large-scale Indian subjects had suffered from too
great a reliance on picturesqueness. Also the equestrian
statue had previously been limited to portraits of
military leaders; Dallin expanded the motif to include
an American ideal subject filled with all the romance,
color, and grandeur befitting a monumental art.
returned to the United States in 1900, bringing with
him his latest triumph and the silver medal it had
won in Paris. He exhibited the "Medicine Man"
at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo the following
year and at the St. Louis fair in 1904. It was for
the St. Louis Exposition that Dallin made the third
of his equestrian Indian statues, "The Protest,"
which unfortunately was never put into permanent material.
This, the most spirited of the quartet, lacked the
solemn grandeur of the others, depicting something
more momentary than monumental; perhaps that is why
it was never cast in bronze. William Howe Downes described
the scene as the time when the Indian had become
. . fully cognizant of his peril and plight. His
peaceful advances have been of no avail. He must
accept the prophecy of the seer of his tribe. He
now arrays himself against the enemy, and, with
clenched fist, his steed rearing on its haunches,
he hurls defiance at his foe. This is the war stage;
the conflict with the frontiersman has begun.
Quoted from "Mr. Dallin's Indian Sculptures,"
Scribner's Magazine, vol. 57, June 1915 p. 782
to the Great Spirit" stands in front of the Museum of
Fine Arts in Boston. First shown at the National Sculpture
Society exhibition in Baltimore in 1908, it was awarded a
gold medal at the Paris Salon the following year. Like Fraser's
"End of the Trail," it summarizes the utter despair
of the Indian's situation. After meeting with treachery and
broken promises, after suffering continual defeat in armed
conflicts, and being totally unable to halt the oncoming enemy,
he seeks help out of utter hopelessness from some more just
and potent power than mere man, either red or white; he appeals
to the Great Spirit who rules the universe. With head thrown
back and arms outstretched, the Indian pleads his case. This
was one of the most profoundly stirring pieces of sculpture
in its day. Moreover, it was so popular that the house of
Caproni, which turned out thousands of plaster casts of ancient
and modern sculptures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
produced replicas of it in three different sizes at modest
prices. As it appeared within a year of the unveiling of Saint-Gaudens'
"Sherman" in Central Park, it might be said that
in T 907-1908 the equestrian statue in American sculpture
reached its zenith.
When Cyrus Dallin
returned from Paris in 1900, he settled in Boston and taught
at the Massachusetts State Normal Art School. His statue of
Sir Isaac Newton was cast in bronze about this time and placed
in the rotunda of the Library of Congress. Massachusetts accepted
it for the Commonwealth and it was erected on the State House
grounds. Toward the end of World War I Dallin was working
on a statue of a defiant doughboy entitled "Captured
but not Conquered." But none of these attained the sculptural
or expressive heights of his "Medicine Man" or his
"Appeal." Only his statue of Massasoit, commissioned
by the Imperial Order of Red Men, approached the greatness
of the two earlier pieces; stalwart, confident, and heroic,
the bronze figure of the great war chief who made peace with
the Pilgrims in 1622 was set up on a boulder on Coles Hill
in Plymouth to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the event.
Cyrus Dallin was sixty. During the next twenty years, however,
three major pieces were to issue from his studio. From 1928-l929
dates the "Spirit of Life"a robed woman holding
heavenward a newborn childwhich was placed beside a
pool in a private residence in Brookline, Massachusetts; it
represents one of Dallin's rare academic ideal pieces. His
aged mother, herself a pioneer woman from the earliest days
of the state's settlement, posed for the monument of the "Pioneer
Women of Utah," completed in 1931; and in 1940 his equestrian
statue of Paul Revere was unveiled in Boston.
Sculpture in America (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell
Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum
small house severs as a museum in the town of Arlington,
Massachusetts, where most of Dallin's work was created.
notes what follows.
Dallin Art Museum in Arlington, Massachusetts
Edwin Dallin was born on November 22, 1861 in Springville,
Utah. His talents at sculpting and art were recognized at
an early age, and he was sent to Boston at the age of 19
to study at the sculpture school of T.H. Bartlett.
In 1883, Dallin entered a competition to develop an equestrian
statue of Paul Revere. Among the other entrants was Daniel
Chester French. No entries were selected, but Dallin persisted
in trying to obtain the commission. This began a 58-year
endurance trial to get the work made (and paid for). During
those 58 years Dallin made seven versions of Paul Revere.
A timeline with photos of the seven versions is in the Revere
room of the Dallin Art Museum.
In Boston, he gained the respect of the other famous artists
of his day, including Augustus St. Gaudens and John Singer
Sargent, who became a close friend. (Sargents sketch
of Dallins Portico is a treasured artifact of the
Dallin Museum.) He became internationally famous, and his
works were widely duplicated and collected.
In 1891 he married a Boston woman, Vittoria Colonna Murray,
who was a successful writer. They raised three children:
Bertram, Arthur, and Lawrence.
In 1900, at the age of 39, Dallin moved to Arlington, Massachusetts,
which remained his home for the rest of his life. As a result,
Arlington is now the home for many of his works.
He was also busy
throughout his life creating war memorials, statues of statesmen,
generals, and mythic figures. Dallin created more than 260
sculptures during his life.
Among his most beloved works are those celebrating Native
Americans. When Dallin was a boy, American Indians were often
depicted as brutal savages. Dallin was among the first to
see a more transcendent character, and conveyed this in his
many Native American sculptures. His Appeal to the Great
Spirit may be the most famous and copied example, but
there are dozens of other works which are admired for their
humanity and classicism.
prolific output continued until the end of his life. In
1940 he finally saw his Paul Revere statue erected
in Boston. By now, the work was famous, with copies installed
in schools across America. Dallin contributed substantially
to the cost of casting and installing the Boston original,
Bostons city fathers having failed to fulfill their
Dallin died at home on November 14, 1944, a week shy of
his 83nd birthday.
Cyrus E. Dallin: his small bronzes and
plasters by Kent Aherns (Corning, NY: Rockwell Museum;
Seattle, WA: Distributed by the University of Washington
Cyrus E. Dallin: Let Justice Be Done
by Rell G. Francis (Springfield, Utah: Springfield Museum
of Art in cooperation with Utah American Revolution Bicentennial
Dallin family, which included three sons, was affiliated
with the First Parish in Arlington, Massachusettsthe
Unitarian church where the life of the sculptor was celebrated
in 1944. The church, which was organized in 1733, is just
across the street from the new Cyrus
Dallin Art Museum in Arlington Center.
to the Great Sprit, 1909. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
E. Dallin: Let Justice Be Done
by Rell G. Francis
Man (1899) Fairmount Park, Philadelphia PA
of Peace (1890). Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois