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Appeal to the Great Spirit, 1913

Appeal to the Great Spirit, 1913

Cyrus Edwin Dallin (1861 – 1944)

A sculptor of Indian figures and portraits, Cyrus Dallin created work that showed Indians as having noble bearing, simplicity, dignity, and elaborate costumes. This was a departure from earlier depictions of them “as a pitiful but appealing remnant of a once-proud and noble race.” (Baigell 85) He was a careful student of anatomy, costume, and psysiognomay, and his highly realistic figures made them seem natural, interesting and worth knowing as human beings.

One of his major pieces is the statue of Paul Revere at Boston’s Old North Church, for which he won an equestrian art contest. Another famous work is Appeal to the Great Spirit, at the Boston Museum of the Fine Arts. Other important works are in Chicago, Signal of Peace in Lincoln Park; Medicine Man in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, and Massasoit at Plymouth, Massachusetts to commemorate the peace of 1621 between the Indians and the Pilgrims.

Dallin was born in a log cabin in Springville, Utah, the son of Mormon pioneers, and he grew up near Paiute and Ute Indians, exposure which set the course of his career. As a youngster, he modeled wolves, antelope, buffalo, and other wild animals of his surroundings. In 1879, he was sponsored by Utah patrons supportive of his genius and headed for Boston to study with Truman Bartlett. On the way, he met Crow Indians that he later used as subjects. He also studied in Paris in 1880 at the Academie Julian and was further inspired to depict western subjects when he saw Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Paris. He sculpted Signal of Peace, the figure of an Indian, which won honorable mention as his entry in the Paris Salon. Much encouraged by this success, he did a series of sculptures on related subjects. In Paris, he also completed a statue of Lafayette.

Dallin taught at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia and the Massachusetts State Normal Art School in Boston.

Sources include:
Sarah Boehme, author of Whitney Gallery of Western Art and curator of Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming
Mathew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Donald Martin Reynolds, Masters of American Sculpture

Biography from the Archives of AskART