Frederick William MacMonnies (1863-1937) of New York City, was a well known sculptor of the Beaux-Arts School, equally successful in France as in the United States. He was also a highly accomplished painter and portraitist.
Frederick William MacMonnies was born on September 28, 1863 in Brooklyn Heights, New York, the son of Juliana Eudora West and William MacMonnies. From an early age, MacMonnies showed skill in fashioning figures from wax. Because the Civil War put an end to his father's prosperous importing business, MacMonnies had to leave school at a young age in order to earn money to support the family.
With the help of a stone carver friend of his father, MacMonnies became a studio assistant to Augustus Stint-Gaudens in 1880. MacMonnies also studied at night at Cooper Union. In 1882 Saint-Gaudens promoted MacMonnies to apprentice and encouraged his development as an artist. MacMonnies began studying drawing at the National Academy of Design and occasionally attended classes at the Art Students League. It was during this time that he became better acquainted with Saint-Gaudens' important patrons and colleagues including John LaFarge, Charles F. McKim, Stanford White.
In 1884 MacMonnies left for Paris to study first at the Académie Colarossi and later at the École des Beaux-Arts under Jean Alexandre Falguière. In 1888 he opened a studio in Paris where he mentored artists including Janet Scudder and Mary Foote. He married a fellow artist, Mary Louise Fairchild in 1888. They had two daughters, Berthe Hélène and Marjorie. They were divorced in 1909, and Mary married painter Will Hicok Low later that year. MacMonnies married his former student Alice Jones in 1910.
MacMonnies executed commissions for Stanford White and John La Farge. In 1889, he won a competition to complete a statue of Nathan Hale for City Hall Park. He won a medal in the Paris Salon for his statue of Hale and a second medal for his statue of James T. Stranahan, earning status as a master artist. In 1891, he was commissioned to produce the central fountain for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Even though MacMonnies travelled annually to the United States, he maintained his primary residences and studios in Paris and Giverny, France. He was also an occasional painter and had a solo exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Galleries in the United States in 1903. In 1905 his Bacchante and Infant Faun statue became the center of controversy when it was rejected by conservative groups in Boston. It was later acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. In 1915 he returned permanently to the United States.
MacMonnies was an Academician of the National Academy of Design, Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France and hors concours at the Paris Salon allowing him to submit works directly to the Salon without initial scrutiny by judges.
Frederick William MacMonnies died of pneumonia on March 22, 1937 in New York City.