Art: Familiar Figures

Daniel Chester French was only 24 when he finished his first major sculpture, the bronze Minute Man at Concord. Men of letters, such as Longfellow and Emerson, beamed encouragingly on his work. President Grant and most of his cabinet came on for the unveiling, which moved French's proud but cautious father to observe: "This is Fame, Dan. Make the most of it, for you don't know how long it will last."

It lasted French's lifetime, and beyond. His smooth blend of realism with classical overtones has made his work grow steadily in popularity if not in critical reputation. During World War II,...

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