Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Object Number: 
Painted plaster
Overall: 36 1/2 x 32 1/2 x 20 in. (92.7 x 82.6 x 50.8 cm)
Signature and date: proper right side of base: "D. C. French/1913"
Portrait bust
Gallery Label: 
One of the most beloved American poets of the mid-19th century. Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, the son of Stephen Longfellow, a lawyer. After graduating from Bowdoin College in 1825, he taught literature there (1829-35) and at Harvard (1836-54). He gained recognition through the publication of his poetry in periodicals and in separate volumes - for example, Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1841), which included such favorites as "The Wreck of the Hesperus" and "The Village Blacksmith." Other long works followed: Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (1847), The Song of Hiawatha (1855), and The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858). In 1854 Longfellow resigned from Harvard to devote himself entirely to writing, his reputation firmly established. He was the first American poet to achieve wide recognition abroad. Longfellow was a close friend of Hawthorne, Emerson, Holmes, Lowell, and many others of that brilliant literary circle which centered in Boston, Cambridge, and Concord. As a boy Daniel Chester French grew up in Cambridge and Concord where he knew all the men and women of that remarkable literary colony. In fact, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was present along with President Grant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and other dignitaries, when young French's famous Minuteman statue was unveiled near Concord in April 1875. It was therefore quite natural that French was chosen to execute the bust of the poet for the Longfellow Memorial in Cambridge. He worked on it in 1914; the original went to Cambridge, and the Society received the plaster replica which had remained in his studio until 1950. Longfellow had died thirty-two years before French modeled this bust, so the dynamic portrait of the bearded old sage and poet was executed from photographs and the sculptor's own recollections of him. French may also have known the splendid bronze statue of Longfellow by Franklin Simmons in Portland, Maine.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. William Penn Cresson (Margaret French)
Mrs. William Penn Cresson (Margaret French), daughter of the artist -original placed at Longfellow Memorial, Cambridge, MA, 1914.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group