Seated Lincoln History

Daniel Chester French

This cast of a mock-up of the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial by Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was purchased in 1956 by Lawrence A. Wien (1905-1988) and put on display in the lobby of this building from 1956 to 2009. It is one of several commissioned by French’s daughter, Margaret French Cresson (1889-1973), from The Modern Art Foundry in Long Island City.

Cresson’s father’s process was to make a number of small sketches, cast them in three or four foot size, and then continue to grow them in size until they reached a point from which the work could be finished, and this is a cast of one of those sketches. French had two studios when the Lincoln statue was being made, one at 12 West 8th Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village (which later became the Whitney Museum), and his home, Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It is unclear at which studio what work was done on the commission he received for the Lincoln Memorial. What is clear is that Cresson had a number of these casts made for sale after her father’s death.

Wien acquired One Grand Central Place in 1954, then named the Lincoln Building for either the Lincoln Storage Company which once occupied the site or the Lincoln National Bank which once was a tenant. In 1955, Wien saw one of the casts at the Grand Central Art Galleries on the sixth floor of Grand Central Terminal. Mr. Wien first requested a life-size copy of the sculpture. Cresson replied “there is no life sized copy as the marble in the Lincoln Memorial was made from a plaster I have in the studio which is about 6’ in height. If the figure were standing instead of seated, it would be about 8’. Unless your lobby is unusually large, I think a 3’ bronse (sic) would be adequate as it would stand on a pedestal or base that should be three or four feet in height, making the whole thing about six or seven feet high.”

Terms were agreed upon in 1956 and a cast was sold to Wien for $3,000, paid in installments of $1,000 on the order and $2,000 on the delivery. It was quite profitable for Cresson who had paid the foundry a price of $975 for the work. In 2009, this building was renamed One Grand Central Place, and the sculpture was removed and loaned to Chesterwood. It was put on display at One Grand Central Place on April 15, 2015.

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