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Adolph Alexander Weinman
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Bronze
Adolph Alexander Weinman was born in 1870 in Durmersheim, Germany (near Karlsruhe) to shoemaker Gustave Weinmann and his wife Katherina (Weingartner). In 1885, Weinman and his widowed mother left Germany to live in America with a relative in the grocery trade. After relocating to the United States, he anglicized his name (it was originally Weinmann). Despite his objections, he was best known as the designer for Walking Liberty on the half dollar and 1916 dime. His talent in figurative and ornamental sculpture brought him many public commissions.
His skills in drawing and modeling in clay led the fifteen year old immigrant to a five year apprenticeship with wood and ivory sculptor Frederick Kaldenberg. He carved household objects such as mirror frames and smoking pipes out of wood and ivory. One year into this training he enrolled at the Cooper Union, and began classes at the Art Students League to study drawing. After the completion of his apprenticeship he joined Philip Martiny's studio, where he was first exposed to medallic art.
In 1895, at age twenty-five, Weinman became the assistant director of Olin H. Warner's studio. After Warner's premature death the next year, Weinman joined the studio of Agustus Saint-Gaudens. This position was also cut short, as Saint-Gaudens decided to relocate to France in 1898. Weinman then joined the studio of Charles H. Niehaus for five years and later became partners with Daniel Chester French. This partnership ended after two years, and Weinman opened his own studio in 1904.
At the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis, Weinman exhibited a figurative group called The Destiny of the Red Man (winning the silver medal). He was also commissioned to create the award medal for the Exposition's participants. This was one of two occasions when he worked with the Philadelphia Mint. Weinman again worked with the Mint on a collaboration with Saint-Gaudens in 1905, a private commission to commemorate President Theodore Roosevelt.
His sculpture can be seen on major public buildings and sites throughout the United States. Working with the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White, Weinman produced ornamentation and friezes for several New York City structures, including the Old Pennsylvania Station and the Municipal Building. Weinman's largest concentration of public works is in Washington D.C., where he designed pediments for the National Archives, the United States Postal Service, and the Department of Agriculture buildings.
He created friezes for the chambers of the United States Sumpreme Court and carved The Declaration of Independence, (1943) at the Jefferson Memorial.
Other notable works by Weinman include monuments to Abraham Lincoln at Hodgenville, Kentucky and Madison, Wisconsin. His Fountains of the Tritons is at the state capitol in Jefferson, Missouri, and a statue of Major General Alexander Macomb stands in Detroit. Statues of Alexander Hamilton and DeWittClinton are at the Museum of the City of New York. Weinman created two allegorical scenes, The Rising Sun (subject work) and The Descending Night (subject work), for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Additional medallic works include a World War I commemorative for the staff of New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital and the J. Sanford Saltus Award for Medallic Art, a tribute bestowed by the American Numismatic Society. Weinman himself received this award by 1920.
Despite the popularity of his famous half dollar and dime, both coins succumbed to a changing taste in art and to the exigencies of politics. His dime was discontinued after 1945 and the half dollar after 1947. The obverse of Weinman's half dollar was revived in 1986 for the United States Mint's silver one-ounce bullion coin and thus remains current.
Weinman is known for a lyrical sounding Neoclassical style with athletic figures bearing Greek or Roman drapery. His work is found in collections including the Metropolital Museum of Art, New York, the Eiteljorg Museum Indianapolis, and the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a member of the Numismatic Society and the National Academy of Design.
Adolph Weinman died on August 7, 1952 in his Port Chester, New York home five years after the last of his coins had been superseded by more modernistic designs.