Ralph Waldo Emerson

Artist: Daniel Chester French (American, Exeter, New Hampshire 1850–1931 Stockbridge, Massachusetts)

Date: 1879; cast 1906–7

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: 22 1/2 x 10 1/4 x 9 in. (57.2 x 26 x 22.9 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of the artist, 1907

Accession Number: 07.101


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), the most distinguished resident of Concord, Massachusetts in the nineteenth century, is best known for essays such as Nature (1836), which became the basis of American Transcendentalism. French was acquainted with Emerson, first meeting him in 1869 and having frequent contact thereafter. French began modeling his bust of Emerson in March 1879, later recalling that his sitter posed almost every day for a month. In this vital and warm portrait, the aged philosopher's personality is as clearly expressed as his physiognomy. Outstanding among the strongly modeled features are the small piercing eyes and the distinctly curved nose, and among the distinguishing traits, the characteristic sideways tilt of the head. Emerson himself offered the ultimate proof of its naturalism: "That is the face that I shave."