Lorado Taft

Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years

Allen Stuart Weller
Robert G. La France
Henry Adams
with Stephen P. Thomas
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt6wr6mb
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  • Book Info
    Lorado Taft
    Book Description:

    Sculptor Lorado Taft helped build Chicago's worldwide reputation as the epicenter of the City Beautiful Movement. In this new biography, art historian Allen Stuart Weller picks up where his earlier book Lorado in Paris left off, drawing on the sculptor's papers to generate a fascinating account of the most productive and influential years of Taft's long career. Returning to Chicago from France, Taft established a bustling studio and began a twenty-one-year career as an instructor at the Art Institute, succeeded by three decades as head of the Midway Studios at the University of Chicago. This triumphant era included: ephemeral sculpture for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition; a prolific turn-of-the-century period marked by the gold-medal-winning The Solitude of the Soul ; the 1913 Fountain of the Great Lakes ; the 1929 Alma Mater at the University of Illinois; and large-scale projects such as his ambitious program for Chicago's Midway with the monumental Fountain of Time . In addition, the book charts Taft's mentoring of women artists, including the so-called White Rabbits at the World's Fair, many of whom went on to achieve artistic success. Lavishly illustrated with color images of Taft's most celebrated works, Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years completes the first major study of a great American artist.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09646-4
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Robert G. La France
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)
    Robert G. La France

    The sculptor, writer, and self-proclaimed “art missionary” Lorado Zadok Taft (1860–1936) led the field of American sculpture for half a century. From the late 1880s through the 1930s he erected major public monuments across America from Seattle to Washington D.C.; his articles and lectures shaped the public understanding of art; his instruction at the Art Institute of Chicago molded the careers of midwestern artists; and his academic textbook,The History of American Sculpture, remains one of the foundational texts of American art history.

    Taft’s impact was marked in his native state of Illinois (where his first name is pronounced...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Paris to Chicago
    (pp. 8-29)

    Nearly twenty-six years old and fresh from Paris, Lorado Zadok Taft established himself in Chicago early in 1886.¹ At that time the single professional sculptor in the city with more than a local reputation was the veteran fifty-eight-year-old Leonard Volk. Only five works of sculpture had been installed in public places. Three of these were by Volk, and all three followed the conventional design of official monuments of the period, with a lofty classical shaft surmounted by a heroic standing figure with relief sculptures or allegorical personifications at the base. Two of these are in Rosehill Cemetery: a memorial to...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Before the Fair
    (pp. 30-65)

    Taft returned to paris for six weeks during the summer of 1887. He was accompanied on this trip by three Chicago friends: two of them were journalists, White Busbey, managing editor of theInter-Ocean(a Chicago weekly published from 1865–1907), and Francis Larned, a reporter on theChicago Daily News; the third was Clayton Minor, the young painter and photographer who had been occupying a corner of Taft’s State Street studio, where the architect Mead Walter remained in residence.¹ The trip had a twofold purpose: first, he was hoping to have the recently completed models for the busts of...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The World’s Columbian Exposition
    (pp. 66-85)

    Taft did not lack commissions during the years before the World’s Fair of 1893, but it is clear that he was dissatisfied with the routine commercial work that came to him, and he longed for the opportunity of creating original compositions of ambitious subjects on a monumental scale. The early enthusiastic expectations of such important opportunities gave way to expressions of dissatisfaction and frustration, though these were seldom mentioned in his letters to the family in Kansas. His portrait busts were highly successful, but their production was an almost completely mechanical exercise in the exact reproduction of specific features, in...

  9. CHAPTER 4 After the Exposition
    (pp. 86-107)

    Taft was one of many people who, inspired by the glamour and success of the World’s Columbian Exposition, expected Chicago to continue as a center of creative activity in many fields. The enormous amount of sculpture created for the Exposition buildings lured several artists to remain in the city, where they hoped to receive major commissions for collaborative work with architects. There were indeed positive signs of developing cultural activity just before and after the Exposition. When Hamlin Garland moved from Boston to Chicago in 1893, he exclaimed: The “golden age is here and now and the future is a...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Taft’s Students
    (pp. 108-121)

    Taft proved to be an able and enthusiastic teacher from the start of his career as an instructor at the Art Institute, and it was not long until he could employ a few of his best pupils to assist him with some of his earliest commissions. Once the work of the Exposition was completed, he returned to his teaching with renewed vigor and introduced a number of innovative projects that called attention to himself and his pupils. In addition to encouraging young women artists, these projects also rejuvenated his own career as a sculptor.

    In the 1890s, classes that worked...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Taft as an Author
    (pp. 122-131)

    It is quite possible that Taft published more than any other artist of his generation. He produced two major books and several substantial pamphlets, and a surprising number of his lectures appeared in printed form. There were constant newspaper interviews and contributions to all of the arts magazines published in Chicago during his early years—at least forty-four articles in twenty different magazines.

    Taft’s first newspaper article was written on shipboard as he was returning from six weeks in Paris in the summer of 1887. He was asked by the editor of the ChicagoInter-Oceanfor an account of the...

  12. CHAPTER 7 From The Solitude of the Soul to The Blind
    (pp. 132-151)

    Taft’s most creative period extended from 1899 when he createdThe Solitude of the Souluntil 1907 when he modeledThe Blind. By this time he had abandoned the detailed realism he had acquired at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and adopted a broader manner in which he contrasted generalized forms with sharply defined significant areas. These were the years during which he conceived the monumental plans for the Midway Plaisance and realized one major element of the project, theFountain of Time(see chapter 8).

    In this period, Taft moved beyond the storytelling approach of his early work...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Development of the Midway Plaisance
    (pp. 152-183)

    During his final years, Taft devoted his efforts to an ambitious sculptural program for the Midway in Chicago, only a small part of which was ever carried out. The Midway (the verdant band of parkland between Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth Streets) had been laid out originally by Frederick Law Olmstead in the 1870s when he projected a complete system of parks with connecting drives and boulevards covering the prairies, marshes, and sand dunes south of the built-up part of the city. During the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Jackson Park, east of the Midway, was the site of the fairgrounds. Washington Park,...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Taft’s Roaring Twenties
    (pp. 184-217)

    [Rgl] for taft, a busy period after 1910 led to a burst of productivity, honors, and achievements in the 1920s.¹ In the years before and during World War I—while Taft completed theColumbus Memorial Fountain, theFountain of the Great Lakes, designs for the Midway, andBlack Hawk—he continued to frequent the beloved Eagle’s Nest colony in Ogle County near Oregon, Illinois. He added to this load and presented a gift to his community by taking on the commission for a Civil War memorial in Oregon, whose city board approved the plans in 1911. Perhaps because of his...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Final Period
    (pp. 218-235)

    Taft always looked optimistically to the future. In 1928, he wrote:

    I need twenty years more to accomplish what I have in mind now. But then, I suppose it is selfish to wish for more years when those I have had have been so full of joy. It hardly seems fair for one person to have had so much happiness in living. Every day of my life has been complete because I have loved what I have been doing. The question of immortality has never troubled me. My accounts are balanced every night when I leave my studio.¹

    In the...

  16. APPENDIX A. Lorado in Paris
    (pp. 236-265)
    Henry Adams
  17. APPENDIX B. Allen Weller: From Francesco di Giorgio to Lorado Taft
    (pp. 266-290)
    Henry Adams
  18. Notes
    (pp. 291-318)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 319-328)
  20. Index
    (pp. 329-344)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 345-346)