Larkin Goldsmith Mead


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Sculptor. Although he executed imaginative subjects as well, he remains known particularly for portraits and public monuments, particularly Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield, Illinois. A lingering fondness for neoclassicism flavors his realistic, sometimes literal works. Born in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, and raised in Brattleboro, Vermont, he trained as a sculptor in the New York studio of Henry Kirke Brown. After two years there, he returned in 1855 to Vermont, where he soon was awarded a commission for a monumental Ceres (1857), symbolizing the state, to crown the capitol dome in Montpelier. During the first year of the Civil War he worked for Harper's Weekly as an illustrator at the front. In 1862 he sailed for Europe with his sister to attend her wedding in Paris to writer William Dean Howells. Mead then settled permanently in Florence but often visited the couple in Venice and occasionally served as acting United States consul there in his brother-in-law's absence. His popular marble Venezia (New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, c. 1865), an ideal bust, realizes an unusual subject, for few American sculptors took an interest in that city. In 1866, on the first of several return visits to the United States, Mead brought with him the model for his colossal memorial to Abraham Lincoln. The 117-foot-tall ensemble features a standing image of Lincoln below a towering obelisk, with ancillary figures at a lower level. Although it was dedicated in 1874, the finishing touches were not put in place until 1883. For the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Mead designed The Triumph of Ceres (destroyed) for the pediment of the Agricultural Building designed by the firm of McKim, Mead and White, which numbered his brother William Rutherford Mead among founding partners. By this time, however, his style seemed old-fashioned, supplanted by taste for the livelier French mode of the late nineteenth century. He subsequently completed few major pieces, and by 1900 his artistic career had essentially come to an end. Elinor Mead Howells (1837–1910) was a painter and illustrator. Her subjects included portraits and scenes of Venice. She served in addition as her husband's acknowledged (if behind-the-scenes) collaborator in literary matters. Also born in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, and raised in Brattleboro, after returning from Venice in 1865 she lived mostly in the Boston area and in New York, where she died.

Subjects: Art.

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