TwHP Lessons

The Workshop of an American Sculptor

[Photo] Interior of the workroom today, Chesterwood.
(Courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation)


hen Daniel Chester French spoke of his summer studio and home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, he declared, "I spend six months of the heaven."¹ The setting was perfect for an artist. Through the open door of the studio, French could look out to carefully tended lilies, marigolds, hollyhocks, and zinnias lining a long walk leading north to the woods. Beyond them, French could admire a panoramic view of the rolling Berkshire hills.

Inspiration was replaced with dusty practicality inside the studio. This workspace was designed specifically for creating monumental public sculpture. French spent 34 summers at Chesterwood, working daily in this studio on such important works as the Abraham Lincoln that forms the centerpiece of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The property, operated as a historic house museum by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has changed little since French's death in 1931. Modern visitors still comment on the contrast between the elaborate summer "cottage" and carefully landscaped grounds, and the functional studio of a hard-working man whose business was sculpture.

¹ "Daniel French, U.S. Sculpture Dean, 80 Today" New York Herald Tribune, April 20, 1930; cited in Michael Richman, Daniel Chester French, An American Sculptor (Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1976), 199.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Stockbridge, Massachusetts and
 surrounding area

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Sculptor, Daniel Chester French
 2. Chesterwood: Home and Workplace
 3. Working on the Abraham Lincoln for the
 Lincoln Memorial

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Bird's-eye view of Chesterwood
 2. French's studio at Chesterwood
 3. The main house at Chesterwood
 4. Interior of the workroom today
 5. Sculpture on railroad track, 1905
 6. Minute Man
 7. Abraham Lincoln being installed at the
 Lincoln Memorial, 1922

 8. Sketch model of Abraham Lincoln
 9. Working model of Abraham Lincoln
 10. Detail, Abraham Lincoln, Washington, D.C.

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Reading a Sculpture
 2. Sculpture as Work
 3. Public Art in the Community

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The lesson is based on the Daniel Chester French Home and Studio, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This property has been designated a National Historic Landmark.



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