Physical Development, Intellectual Development
Hermon Atkins MacNeil, circa 1916
November 8th, 2011
The Iconic Figures of Northwestern University
Physical Development, Intellectual Development is an outdoor sculpture located in northern Chicago. Also known as The Athlete and The Scholar, the sculpture has become a notable landmark on Northwestern University’s campus. The sculpture’s style, as well as its enduring history, has made it an indelible piece of outdoor sculpture in Chicago. To better understand the significance of the sculpture, it is necessary to examine the artist’s background, as well as the sculpture’s style, commission, construction, siting, conservation, and audience.
Physical Development, Intellectual Development was the aesthetic creation of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a local Chicago sculptor. MacNeil was born in 1866 in Everett, Massachusetts. He received his formal training in arts and sculpting at the Normal Art School in Boston. After graduating in 1886, he moved to New York to become an instructor for industrial art and modeling at Cornell University from 1886 to 1888. After a brief stint as an instructor at Cornell, MacNeil made the decision to follow the career path of many other artists of his time, and moved to Europe in 1888. Settling in Paris, he trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Julien Academy as a student of Henri M. Chapu and Alexandre Falguière (FADA, 1). In 1891 he returned to the United States for the World’s Columbian Exposition of
1893 in Chicago. He began working as an assistant to sculptor Philip Martiny, helping to create sculptural ornamentation on buildings used for the World’s Fair (Bach, 203). MacNeil was asked to prepare several sculptures for the Electricity Building at the World’s Fair, and enlisted the help of local Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft to help him do so (Leininger, 1).
After the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, MacNeil chose to stay in Chicago and teach at the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as to open a studio. There he made sculptures of Native American subjects, which he developed after seeing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the World’s Fair. Inspired by the Native American culture, he took many trips over the next twelve years to study the ceremonies and ritual life of Indian settlements of the southwestern portion of the United States. This research led to the portrayal of Native Americans in his later sculptures, which gained many accolades (Bach, 203).
Remaining in Chicago was found to be a poor choice for MacNeil. He had trouble finding work, and stated that he “nearly starved to death from lack of work” (Bach, 203). However, he did find commissions with Frank Lloyd Wright, and helped create four relief panels made of bronze for the Marquette Building. Each of these portrays the incidents of the life of Father Marquette, a Jesuit priest, as he explored the Mississippi River and state of Illinois (Jyoti, 1).
After his work in Chicago, MacNeil returned to Europe for further study. There he continued work with Native American sculptures, some of which depicted rituals and dances that he studied during his trips to the southwest portions of the
United States. These sculptures brought him many accolades, including the Rinehart Roman Scholarship (FADA, 1).
After his time in Europe, MacNeil returned to the United States in 1900 and continued work on commissions he received. He designed the United States quarter in 1916, which included a goddess of Liberty on one side and the American eagle on the other side. After a highly successful career in sculpture, Herman MacNeil passed away at his home on Long Island Sound, where he lived for the final forty-seven years of his life (Leininger, 1).
Physical Development, Intellectual Development was regarded as one of MacNeil’s finest sculptural pieces. Constructed in 1916, it originally sat in front of the first Patten Gymnasium. In 1940, when the original Patten Gymnasium was razed and the new Patten Gymnasium was constructed, the sculptures were placed on either side of the entrance. The piece consists of two sculptural groups, each with a theme of athletics or academics.
Physical Development is comprised of two almost completely nude male figures involved in a game of football. Engraved on the base of the statue is a statement by the English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson that says, “To strive – to seek – to find and not to yield.” Alfred Lord Tennyson was a 19th century author most famous for his short lyrics, which were based on classical mythological themes. As seen in Figure 2, Physical Development consists of a half-nude male standing in a posed position. Tucked under his left arm is a thick football with wings sprouting out of it. On his extended right arm is an unfurled cloth flowing behind him. His only
clothing is what appears to be a jock strap, tying in with the theme of athletics. The man’s face is emotionless, and appears to stare off into the distance. The second figure in Physical Development is dressed in retro football attire, including a helmet that lacks a facemask. The figure is almost completely inverted, as if having been knocked over in mid-run. It can also be assumed that the first figure deflected the second’s tackle, sending him into this inverted position.
In contrast to Physical Development, Intellectual Development was based on classical mythology. The central female figure is Athena-Minerva, goddess of wisdom and understanding, as well as the human intellect. Next to Athena-Minerva is Apollo, whom is associated with the life-giving properties of light, health and well being, as well as music and poetry (Bach, 203). These subjects are easily seen in Figure 1. Inscribed on the base is a quote from British novelist Charles Kinsley, reading: “And after all is not that enough to have lived for – to have found out one true thing – and therefore one imperishable thing in one’s life.” Intellectual Development consists of the central figure, Athena-Minerva, standing in a posed position. In her raised right arm is a staff on which an owl is perched, which is evident in Figure 5. In her left arm is a large book, and decorative leaves are arranged on her back, as seen in Figure 4. Crouched next to her is Apollo, whom is half-nude. Athena is fully clothed in drapery, and is also wearing sandals.
Physical Development, Intellectual Development was initially placed in front of the original Patten Gymnasium, located on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The gymnasium was built in 1909 in honor of James A. Patten.
George W. Maher (1864-1926), a Prairie School architect, designed the original Patten Gymnasium, which originally featured The Athlete and The Scholar. The gymnasium was demolished in the spring of 1939 to make room for the Technological Institute. Just a few blocks north of the original location, construction began on the new Patten Gymnasium. The new building was designed in coordination of the “collegiate gothic style” of the Deering Library and Scott Hall, as well as the new Technological Institute (Northwestern). Built at a cost of $425,000, it measured 136 feet wide by 252 feet long. The new Patten Gymnasium contains only two pieces of the former gymnasium; the black and chrome doors, and The Athlete and The Scholar, which are placed on either side of the entrance to the new Patten Gymnasium (Northwestern, 1). The new gymnasium was built to meet the needs of Northwestern University’s growing intramural sports program. Located directly across the street from Roycemore Field, where the majority of outdoor intramural activities took place, the New Patten Gymnasium was conveniently placed for indoor intramural activities. The state-of-the-art gymnasium contains seventeen Athletic Department offices, a large hardwood-floored gymnasium, a swimming pool, gymnastics area, and a rifle range. Dedicated on November 2nd, 1940 during Homecoming Weekend, the new Patten Gymnasium was met with widespread enthusiasm (Northwestern, 1).
Physical Development, Intellectual Development is positioned on either side of the entrance to the new Patten Gymnasium, as seen in Figure 3. Seated directly across from Sheridan Road, it is located on the far north edge of Northwestern
University’s campus. Although originally sited for a different location and structure, one would not notice this at the current location. The sculptures subconsciously create a gateway into the gymnasium. For part of the year the dark green vines that cover the outer gymnasium walls create an aesthetic backdrop for the sculptures. The sculptures harmonize well with the Gothic style of the gymnasium, giving an old-fashioned atmosphere.
James A. Patten, who also commissioned the original building of which they previously stood before, commissioned Physical Development, Intellectual Development. James Patten was a renowned Chicago businessman, philanthropist, former mayor of Evanston, and president of Northwestern University’s board of trustees (Northwestern, 1).
The style for Physical Development, Intellectual Development can be described as naturalistic, in that it portrays its subject in a natural setting. In this instance the central figures of each sculpture are standing formally in their natural setting. The sculptures also portray figures from classical mythology, and the focus on the central figure’s physique in Physical Development, as well as the drapery in Intellectual Development, allude to Greek-stylized sculpture.
The audience for Physical Development, Intellectual Development would predominantly be Northwestern students. Common pedestrians, as well as cars passing by on Sheridan Street, could also be part of the audience. The sculptures stand to remind students entering Patten Gymnasium about the importance of keeping a balance of athletics and academics in one’s life. Past Northwestern
students have affectionately nicknamed the sculptures “Pat” and “Gym,” a play on words with Patten Gymnasium.
Little is known about the conservation history of Physical Development, Intellectual Development. However, it can be assumed that the bronze sculptures have gone through a number of restorations. These would most likely entail a process of applying a patina seal to protect from contaminants, as well as help to counteract the deterioration process of the patinaed surface of each bronze sculpture (Kipper, 1).
Despite being moved from its original location, Physical Development, Intellectual Development has prevailed to become an iconic image on Northwestern University’s campus. While individuals passing by might not realize the sculpture’s significance, it is still necessary to understand each aspect that brought the sculpture to a reality.
Fig. 1-Intellectual Development Fig. 2-Physical Development
Fig 3-Long shot Fig. 4-Close up, Intellectual Development
Fig. 5-Close up, Intellectual Development Fig. 6-Side View
Bach, Ira. “Chicago’s Public Sculpture.” 1983, The University of Chicago. p. 201-203
FADA. “Hermon Atkins MacNeil.” November 2nd, 2011 <http://www.fada.com/
Jyoti. “Marquette Building-Exterior Bronzes.” November 5th, 2011 < http://chicago-
Kipper. “Bronze Conservation: Maintenance, and Restoration.” November 5th, 2011
Leininger. “About Hermon Atkins MacNeil.” November 2nd, 2011
Northwestern. “Patten Gym: New.” November 2nd, 2011