Stockbridge, Mass. – Chesterwood, the home, studio and gardens of sculptor Daniel Chester French, celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special exhibition recognizing French’s daughter, Margaret French Cresson (1889–1973) as an artist in her own right as well as honoring her dedication to preserving Chesterwood. “Margaret French Cresson: Her Artistic Life and Legacy in Preserving Chesterwood”will open at The Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives, located at 46 Main St., on March 1 and run through April 30. There will be a free opening reception, Friday, March 1 from 5 to 7 p.m., sponsored by the Chesterwood Advisory Council. The exhibition has been generously sponsored, in part, by Owen Lewis and Susan Ennis, and Sohn Fine Art.
French, most well-known for his sculpture of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., divided his time between New York City and Stockbridge, where he and his family spent their summers starting in 1897. His only child Margaret enjoyed entertaining friends in the country and often sculpted alongside her father in his studio. After French and his wife, Mary, passed away, Margaret inherited Chesterwood, making it her full-time home in the 1950s. Passionate about keeping her father’s artistic legacy alive, she donated Chesterwood, with the exception of the Residence where she lived until her death in 1973, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private, non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., which opened the property as a historic site to the public on June 9, 1969. After Cresson’s death in 1973, the Residence and its contents became the property of the National Trust as well.
“Margaret French Cresson: Her Artistic Life and Legacy in Preserving Chesterwood” will feature historical photographs that illustrate Cresson’s life at Chesterwood: modeling for her father, socializing with friends and family, and creating sculpture in the studio, as well as photographs of her as the “keeper” of Chesterwood. The exhibition will also highlight her work as a sculptor through portrait reliefs, small bronzes, exhibition photographs and catalogues.Other personal objects, such as diaries, scrapbooks, writings, and ephemera will contribute to an understanding of Cresson’s life and her involvement in civic activities in Stockbridge and the Berkshires at large.
“Margaret French Cresson’s remarkable life as the daughter of a famous American artist was shaped by Chesterwood and the Berkshire community which she eventually called home. It seems only fitting as we celebrate the site’s 50th anniversary that we acknowledge her role in preserving Chesterwood as well as her own creative pursuits,” said Donna Hassler, Chesterwood’s executive director and co-curator of the exhibition.
This exhibition will include objects from the Chesterwood collections and the Chesterwood Archives, courtesy of the Chapin Library at Williams College. The exhibition has been co-curated by Hassler and Dana Pilson, curatorial researcher, both of Chesterwood, and Valerie Balint, program manager of Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios. Additional assistance was provided by Isabella Browne Lorcher, Chesterwood intern.
The following exhibition-related programming will take place at The Stockbridge Library and is free to the public. Check for additional programing or changes at www.chesterwood.org/calendar
- Friday, March 1, 5 p.m., exhibition opening reception with remarks by the curators
- Friday, March 8, 6 p.m., an illustrated lecture by Valerie Balint, “Keepers of the Flame: Women Behind Preserving Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios”
- Friday, April 5, 6 p.m., an illustrated lecture by Dana Pilson, “Margaret French Cresson: Growing up at Chesterwood, Her Life, Loves and Loss”
Chesterwood, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation is the former summer home, studio and gardens of America’s foremost sculptor of public monuments, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931). French is best known for his sculptures of the Minute Man (1871-75) and the seated figure of Abraham Lincoln (1911-22) for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Chesterwood is notably one of the earliest venues in the United States to showcase large-scale works in an outdoor setting. Since 1978, close to 600 emerging and established artists’ works have been exhibited at Chesterwood. Situated on 122 acres in the idyllic hamlet of Glendale near Stockbridge, Mass., the property and its buildings were donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by French’s only child Margaret French Cresson (1889-1973). Chesterwood is recognized as both a National Historic Landmark and a Massachusetts Historic Landmark. For more information, visit chesterwood.org.