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


While growing up in Concord, Massachusetts, French met the town’s most celebrated resident, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), a distinguished philosopher and writer and the leader of the Transcendentalist movement. Over a month of sittings, French captured the essential features of Emerson’s physiognomy, notably his small, piercing eyes, distinctly curved nose, and characteristic sideways tilt of the head. Emerson offered the ultimate proof of the portrait’s realism by declaring, “That is the face that I shave.”