SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the City of Springfield will host the exhibition of American realist Seward Johnson’s “Return Visit” sculpture, beginning with a spectacular installation process on May 22.
A crane will lift the two figures, Lincoln and his companion, high into the air before they are set in place and affixed on their base Wednesday.
This monumental-scale piece is the enlarged version of Johnson’s original work of art commissioned for Gettysburg Plaza in Pennsylvania. The life-scale sculpture stands near the historic Wills House in Gettysburg and depicts President Lincoln gesturing with his famous hat to the bedroom in the Wills House where he finished writing the Gettysburg Address before delivering the speech at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery, Nov. 19, 1863. Beside him stands a “modern man” representing all of us. He holds a gigantic bronze copy of the address in his hands, indicating that these words are as valid to our contemporary life as they were in Lincoln’s time.
On June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner referred to the most famous speech ever given by President Lincoln. In his eulogy for the slain president, he called the Gettysburg Address a "monumental act" and said Lincoln was mistaken that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." Rather, the Bostonian remarked, "The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.”
“The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is home to one of the five copies of the Gettysburg Address written in Lincoln’s own hand. It’s also dedicated to helping ordinary people understand Lincoln’s extraordinary life and legacy. I think that makes us the perfect place for a sculpture featuring both the speech and Lincoln talking to a citizen,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The sculpture is being brought to Springfield thanks to a partnership between the presidential library and the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“What an incredible opportunity to host Seward Johnson’s “Return Visit” monumental Abraham Lincoln statue for two summers. The City of Springfield is beyond thrilled for this opportunity to draw tourists to our city with this unique experience,” said Scott Dahl, executive director of Visit Springfield.
The public is invited to view the awe-inspiring installation of the 31-foot-tall Lincoln and his companion at the corner of Sixth and Jefferson streets, with the sculptures flying into position around 11 a.m.
Artist Seward Johnson is a world-renowned sculptor who has had more than 450 life-size cast bronze figures featured in private collections and museums in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia, as well as on public view at prominent locales such as Times Square and Rockefeller Center in New York City, Pacific Place of Hong Kong, Les Halles in Paris and Via Condotti in Rome. Johnson’s spectacular monumental-scale works have been on public view or been permanently sited in Australia, Normandy, Brussels, New York City, San Diego, Palm Springs, Washington, D.C., and Rome.
Regionally, people may be most familiar with Johnson’s works on display in downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue. Over the years, these displays included the giant Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing aloft, and the farmers with the pitchfork in homage to painter Grant Wood. Even a rendition of Shakespeare’s King Lear has awed the human-scale population and delighted passersby. The Lincoln sculpture has been on view in Chicago and in Troy, Ohio, before most recently travelling to Peoria, Ill.
Sculptor Seward Johnson notes: "President Lincoln's character and accomplishments are imprinted forever on the nation he loved and served so well. He has been a hero to millions of people and certainly has inspired me throughout my life."
The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc., was incorporated to promote the appreciation of, and education about, sculpture and public art in general, primarily through the creation, maintenance, sales and public placement of Seward Johnson’s artwork.
The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Visitors can see ghosts come to life on stage, watch TV coverage of the 1860 presidential election, roam through the Lincoln White House, experience booming cannons in a Civil War battle and come face to face with priceless original Lincoln artifacts.
The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.
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