Friday, September 16, 2011

French Elevator Doors - RISD

Daniel Chester French elevator doors at RISD

Sculptor Daniel Chester French is best known for his statue of the seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.  In New England, he is also known for the statue of the Minuteman at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, and the sculpture of John Harvard in Harvard Square, Cambridge.

But he also created many beautiful cast metal doors, including the main bronze doors at the Boston Public Library, and the elevator doors for the historic building which now belongs to the Rhode Island School of Design.

The building was originally the location of the Rhode Island Hospital Trust Bank, and was built between 1917-1920.  It later became a Fleet Bank, and the first floor banking hall was donated by Fleet to RISD in 2002 to serve as the main college library.  Later RISD acquired the upper floors of the building to serve as housing for 500 students.

French was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, but moved with his family to Concord, Massachusetts when he was 17.  He attended MIT for a year, but then left school to study sculpture.  His first teacher was a neighbor of the Frenches, Abigail May Alcott (Louisa May's younger sister), who gave French modeling lessons and supplies.  His first commission, the Minuteman statue in Concord, was obtained through the efforts of family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I'm sure Mr. French would be pleased to know that hundreds of art students now pass through these doors every day!