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Coming To The Parson

Classification: 
Date: 
October 1870
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 22 x 16 1/2 x 10 in. ( 55.9 x 41.9 x 25.4 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.649
Marks: 
signed: proper left top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/ 14 W 12 ST" inscribed: proper left top back of base: "PATENTED/AUG.9.1870" inscribed: front of base: "COMING TO THE PARSON"
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. Coming to the Parson was Rogers' most popular group by far, selling more than eight thousand copies, approximately one-tenth of his total output. In a decisive break from his earlier focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction, Rogers offered a reassuring image of hope, a new beginning, and, literally, of union, for which Americans hungered after a traumatic decade of war and its aftermath. Rogers depicted a rustic couple interrupting a minister to ask him to perform an impromptu ceremony. The young man with a flower in his buttonhole clutches his hat awkwardly, and his intended peeks shyly around him. She has dressed in her best, and she bites her makeshift veil in a childish gesture that points out her tender age. The parson, still in his dressing gown, looks up in surprise at the impatient couple. He is reading a newspaper that Rogers, adding a note of humor, entitled The Union. Rogers wryly hinted that the couple's future might hold less than harmonious moments by including a dog and cat that crouch at their feet, poised for a fight. Rogers struck a resonant chord with his new subject, which combined nostalgia for lost innocence and intimations of a brighter future. His figures were understood to be country folk, signaling a rural American past that was lamented as a purer, simpler era, now lost. However, the marriage offered hope for a new "Union," perhaps not only for the young lovers but also between the North and South. Contemporary writers relished telling the story of Rogers' sculpture, with its gently humorous nuances and flourishes, linking it to an earnest optimism about home and family. The New York Evening Mail assured its readers that "This is no runaway match-not a bit of it. There is honest, manly purpose in every inch of that young fellow and that she has her mother's blessing who can doubt that looks into her radiant face?" Another writer concurred, "One laughs first at the gaucherie of the lovers, but after a little study discovers that it is not a laughing matter at all. These young people are not on a frolic; the business that has brought them here is the most serious business they have ever undertaken." The public embraced Rogers' subject with delight. Importantly for its popularity, the year that Rogers released this group he began to offer free delivery to any express station in the United States, expanding his sales far beyond the East Coast, so that Coming to the Parson achieved tremendous nationwide popularity as a wedding gift. The subject became an icon of American culture; nearly eighty years later Norman Rockwell referenced the group in his "April Fool" cover for the Saturday Evening Post dated April 3, 1948. Titled Curiosity Shop, it illustrates an encounter between the elderly owner and a very young patron. Among the quirky items meant to test the viewer's alertness is a Rogers Group that conflates the solider from one of his Civil War groups with the young woman about to be married, in an unintended reminder of the links between this group and his Civil War subjects. Clearly, Coming to the Parson was still familiar enough to the public that Rockwell could expect his audience to understand the joke.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. "The Sculptor Rogers Latest Group," New York Evening Mail, Apr. 5, 1870, p. 1. "Art Notes," The Evening Post, New York, Oct. 4, 1870, p. 2. Harper's Weekly, March 6, 1875, p. 208. New York Daily Graphic, Jan. 8, 1877, p. 3. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 74. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp. 74-5. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 114, 150, 225, 239, 294, 304. Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968, pp. 357-366. Bourdon, David, "The story-telling statuettes of John Rogers, 19th-century people's artist, are being eagerly collected again," Smithsonian, Vol. 6, No. 2, May 1975, pp. 51-7. Holtzer, Harold and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1979, pp. 756-768. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 122-3.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1870
eMuseum Object ID: 
47
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

"Why Don't You Speak For Yourself, John?"

Classification: 
Date: 
1884
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 21 3/4 x 16 1/4 x 11 3/4 in. ( 55.2 x 41.3 x 29.8 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.660
Marks: 
signed: proper right top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/ NEW YORK/14 W 12 ST" inscribed: back of base: "PATENTED. FEB.10.1885" inscribed: front of base: "WHY DON'T YOU SPEAK FOR YOURSELF JOHN?/JOHN ALDEN PRISCILLA"
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. Rogers' mature oeuvre includes a number of successful sculptures inspired by theatrical and literary subjects, many from the plays of Shakespeare. However, Rogers' first such groups were a series based on the work of an American writer, Washington Irving's tale of Rip Van Winkle. The artist returned to native authors with this subject, taken from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 poem The Courtship of Miles Standish. Longfellow's poem relates the story of a love triangle among the pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony, Miles Standish, John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins. The author, an Alden descendant, claimed that the story was based on family tradition. While the nuances of the tale cannot be confirmed, the three were recorded inhabitants of the colony, and John and Priscilla were married, as described in Longfellow's poem. Rogers depicted the crucial moment when Alden has come to press the suit of his captain, Miles Standish. Alden's heart is heavy because of his own love for Priscilla, and, as Longfellow related, "Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter / Said, in a tremulous voice, 'Why don't you speak for yourself, John?'" The artist created a stagelike space with a turned chair and a high-back bench on which Priscilla is seated. Rogers did not include the "carded wool like a snow-drift piled at her knee" that Longfellow described; rather, he placed a beautifully shaped bundle of wool on the spindle of her spinning wheel. Rogers asked a friend's mother about the mechanics of spinning so that he could depict Priscilla's actions in a convincing way. In his further concern for accuracy, Rogers created a remarkably detailed spinning wheel so intricate that it was necessary to have it fabricated in metal, as he sometimes did for the fragile parts of his groups. Priscilla's psalm book lies in her lap, because she had been interrupted singing the one hundredth psalm. She turns toward Alden with a coquettish smile as if she is about to speak. Alden stands awkwardly fumbling with his hat; according to the poem, he will turn and rush out of the room in confusion after Priscilla has spoken her piece. Longfellow's poem was considered to bring the country's early history alive; it met with instant acclaim and huge popularity. One commentator confirmed the poem's ubiquity asking, "Who has not read Longfellow's 'Miles Standish' time and again, until the story has almost assumed the dignity of history." The poem was commonly taught in schools, and Rogers' sculpture was suggested as a useful educational aid. In choosing a familiar and distinctly American subject, Rogers appealed to the current interest in the country's early days, and he created a scene of flirtation and courtship that struck a chord with his audience. "Why Don't You Speak for Yourself, John?" became one of his best-selling groups. This was remarkable, since it was produced in the later stages of Rogers' career, and other beloved sculptures, such as Coming to the Parson (1936.649, 1929.102, INV.710, 1948.411), had been enjoying prodigious sales for many years.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. "National Academy of Design," Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Nov. 29, 1884, p. 6. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 80. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp. 92-3. Baker, Charles E., "John Rogers As He Depicted American Literature," American Collector, Vol. 13, No. 10, pp. 10-1, 16. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 109, 251-2, 294. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 190-1.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1884
eMuseum Object ID: 
46
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

The First Ride

Classification: 
Date: 
June 1888
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 17 1/2 x 16 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. ( 44.4 x 41.9 x 26 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure: Lady without hat.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Miss Katherine Rebecca Rogers, daughter of the artist
Object Number: 
1936.636
Marks: 
signed: top center of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: front of base: "THE FIRST RIDE" inscribed: top back of base: "PATENT.SEP.4TH. 1888"
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. Rogers returned to the subject of country life periodically throughout his career, and this sculpture represents his last effort in this vein. His sales catalogue describes the scene: "The mother and child are visiting the country and the little boy is having his first experience on the back of the farmer's horse." In his characteristic manner, Rogers illuminated the story through careful detail: the farmer is in shirtsleeves and wearing boots, and his horse is in harness for field work. The fashionably dressed young mother from the city, said to be modeled after the artist's wife, Hattie, wears an elaborately decorated hat. In Rogers' original conception for the group, she was bareheaded; the hat did not appear in his patent application, on the master bronze from which the sculptures were produced, or in an early promotional drawing. It may be that the artist added the hat to make clear her citified origins. In contrast to the gentle indifference of the horse idly chewing some greenery on the ground, the boy's face is alight with excitement at the adventure. In revisiting the subject of rural life, a tried-and-true theme for Rogers, he drew from his experience living in the village of New Canaan, Connecticut, his home for the previous decade. In this and such groups as We Boys (1929.96, 1936.661, 1936.711), Going for the Cows (1929.98, 1936.650), and Fetching the Doctor (1929.95, 1936.628), Rogers offered a nuanced vision of the country, not a strictly nostalgic view of a lost way of life but, rather, scenes of contemporary rural life that continued outside the confines of the city. He occasionally chose moments of contact between city and country that depict rural virtues, as in Checkers Up at the Farm (1936.629, 1928.29), in which a well-dressed urban visitor is bested by a strapping country lad's native cleverness. Here, the merits of country life are extolled once again as a mother brings her son to experience a simple country pleasure, perhaps even a rite of passage, that is more thrilling to him than any offered in the metropolis. Though the group is not retrospective in subject, it does suggest a sense of nostalgia with regard to the artist's own oeuvre. For more than a decade before making this work, Rogers was engaged with large-scale theatrical subjects taken from Shakespeare that he embellished with a wealth of surface detail. In The First Ride he not only harked back to his earlier themes, but he also returned to his earlier style of relatively simple characterization and unadorned surfaces. It appears that The First Ride was not very successful commercially, and it marks a moment of decline in Rogers' career. After more than a quarter century of national popularity, his work was losing its appeal. In 1888, the year that he produced The First Ride, he closed his lavish showroom on Union Square in New York and reduced prices on a number of his groups, a move that suggests that sales were down. The artist formally retired five years later.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vol. 1, New York Historical Society. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 74 Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.96-7. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 116-7, 119, 260, 295, 300. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 204-5.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1888
eMuseum Object ID: 
45
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

School Days

Classification: 
Date: 
September 1877
Medium: 
Bronze
Dimensions: 
Overall: 21 1/4 x 12 1/4 x 9 in. (54 x 31.1 x 22.9 cm)
Description: 
Genre figure.
Credit Line: 
Purchase
Object Number: 
1936.642
Marks: 
signed: center top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK 1877" inscribed: center top back of base: "PAT.JUNE 26 1877." inscribed: front of base: "SCHOOL DAYS"
Gallery Label: 
This bronze served as the master model for the plasters that Rogers sold to a broad audience of middle-class Americans. Rogers had taken childhood education as a theme in the past, including the intimate drama of the student under pressure in The School Examination of 1867 and the budding romance of The Favored Scholar, 1872. For this work, however, Rogers surprised viewers by referring to a period in one's life rather than to an actual school subject. The title suggests that School Days is not a commentary on contemporary life but a nostalgic glimpse of a fleeting period of innocence and enjoyment. The scene takes place on the street where two children (modeled after Rogers' daughter Katherine and his son Charles) have stopped on their way to school, fascinated by an organ grinder and his monkey. The man stands with his weight on his back foot cranking his instrument somewhat perfunctorily. Organ grinders were a common (and, for some, annoying) part of New York street life, and many were recent immigrants. Though Rogers did not specify his street musician's nationality, several commentators described him as Italian, perhaps based on the figure's bushy hair and mustache. The girl is entranced by the remarkably detailed figures dancing in the organ, and the boy is discovering that the monkey has stolen his hat. Rogers issued this group at approximately the same time as The Traveling Magician (1936.637, 1926.35). He may have intended the two views of street life to function as pendants. It has been said that monkeys were considered bad luck during this period, and, indeed, School Days seemed ill-fated. Rogers exhibited it at the National Academy of Design's 1877 annual exhibition, where it seems not to have attracted critical notice. The group sold poorly; perhaps a scene of urban street life was considered inappropriate for middle-class parlors.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vol. 4, New York Historical Society. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Oct. 30, 1877, p. 6. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.84-5. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 117, 149, 242-3, 285, 294, 301, 304. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1970, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 162-3.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1877
eMuseum Object ID: 
44
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

Polo

Classification: 
Date: 
1879
Medium: 
Painted plaster with lead parts
Dimensions: 
Overall: 15 x 18 x 12 in. ( 38.1 x 45.7 x 30.5 cm )
Description: 
Genre figure: Two players on horses at goalpost
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan
Object Number: 
1948.409
Marks: 
signed: proper right front corner of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/1879" inscribed: center front of base: "POLO" paper label: on front of base: "310"
Gallery Label: 
When Rogers created this group, the sport of polo was still new or even unknown to most Americans. It was imported from India to Britain in the mid-nineteenth century, and the first polo match in the United States took place in 1876, organized by the publisher James Gordon Bennett at Dickel's Riding Academy at Thirty-ninth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York. Rogers lived nearby on West Forty-third Street. Given his interest in horses, Rogers was probably familiar with the place, and he may well have been present at the match. Polo clubs sprang up quickly thereafter in the New York area. Rogers created this group just three years later. The sculptor had already taken horses as his subject several times before, in We Boys (1936.711, 1936.661, 1929.96), Going for the Cows (1936.650, 1939.98), and The Peddler at the Fair (1947.145, 1929.85), but he had never before depicted them in motion. Polo is an astonishing technical achievement. The artist assumed the formidable challenge of depicting two horses racing toward each other, posed in very different stances, with one rearing and the other in mid-gallop. The players are dressed in the standard garb of the period, wearing the flat fezes that were a legacy of the game's Eastern origins. Rogers' well-known mastery of equine anatomy made the horses seem more alive and intensely engaged than their riders: their muscles flex and their eyes bulge. Most remarkably, the galloping horse has all four feet off the ground and is supported by a metal rod that joins his form to that of the other horse. Rogers modeled delicate parts, such as the flag and the mallets, from metal, to minimize breakage. Rogers was acclaimed for his painstaking realism, and in Polo he was careful to depict the costumes and equipment accurately. However, he apparently did not realize that the most important element of the group was in error. His virtuoso achievement of rendering a horse in three dimensions with all four feet extended off the ground had been proven physically impossible the year before. The photographer Eadweard Muybridge took a series of photographs called The Horse in Motion showing that at the moment all four of the horse's feet leave the ground they are not extended, as they are in Rogers' sculpture, but curled inward. Muybridge's experiment took place in California, so it is possible that the news, along with the photographs, had not yet reached the artist. It is not surprising that Rogers was attracted to the sport of polo, but it was a pastime of the well-to-do, and his middle-class audience did not share his interest. Polo has been called Rogers' greatest technical achievement, but it was also one of his greatest commercial failures. It disappeared from his catalogue just nine years later and is now one of his rarest groups.
Bibliography: 
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vol. 4, New York Historical Society. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp. 88-9. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 112, 119, 150, 245, 287, 295-6, 304. Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968, pp. 357-366. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 176-7.
Date Begin: 
0
Date End: 
1879
eMuseum Object ID: 
43
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

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