From the Kansas City Star.
Thirty years ago on a farm near Carthage, Missouri, a barefoot boy of twelve was harrowing a freshly plowed field. He had gone over the field the third time and the floating process had left it mellow and level as a floor. There was only a little more to do and another day would be ended. He stopped his horses and sitting on the harrow began to dream of the future. Just then he was attracted by the whirr of an enquiring eagle which had left the wooded hill to swoop down to scan the youth. The boy followed its dreamy flight until it vanished in the tall timber. Musing, he picked up a twig and began to scratch the mellow soil. The eagle would not out of his mind so he began to draw his outline in the earth. This so fascinated him that after erasing it and smoothing the ground still more he drew the picture of the eagle again and again.
Startled by a cry, he looked up and across the field he saw his father waving him to come home. At the same time he noticed that the sun had gone down and he was long over due at home. The last stretch of the field was rapidly gone over and he hurried home to a late supper.
Such were the beginnings of the art career of one John Paulding, a Missouri lad, who is now rapidly mounting the ladder of fame in the art world. Through many vicissitudes John kept his cherished ambition in mind and finally was awarded with enough of this world's goods to undertake the work of sculpture for its own sake and is now one of the recognized sculptors of America. His studio is in Chicago but his work is scattered from the Lakes to the Pacific. He is a member of the Chicago Society of Artists and the Western Society of Sculptors and is an alumnus of the Chicago Art Institute.
His most pretentious work is the statute of General James B. McPherson, a life-sized equestrian bronze, that will be unveiled at McPherson, Kansas, the coming Fourth of July. It is eminently fitting that he should have been chosen to create in the West this portraiture of the Ohio general of the Civil War, as he, too, is an Ohioan by birth. Near the village of Piqua, only about a hundred miles from the birthplace of General McPherson, John Paulding first saw the light of day. His parents, however, soon moved to a farm near Carthage, Missouri, and there the boy grew to manhood.
At spare times he had done a great deal of reading and had mastered the art of shorthand so that at 21 he was able to graduate from the Carthage Business College. So well had he done his work that the school retained him to teach shorthand and typewriting. After a year of this work in which he succeeded in organizing the largest class in the history of the school, he yearned for the city and secured a position with a machinery manufacturing concern in Chicago with which his father was at that time connected. After a short time he found work more congenial with a large piano company, where he worked for seven years as assistant to the vice-president and gained a great deal of knowledge and experience in the detail and routing of a business office and of which the artist generally knows too little.
By that time he had gained enough means that with the advice and encouragement of his good wife he resigned his position to further pursue the study of art. Correspondence courses and evening classes at the Art Institute had taught him much of art and every spare moment for years had been given to his cherished ambition sometime to become an artist. He was enabled to take a trip to Europe where for a short time he studied the works of the masters and then when at the end of his financial string he settled down and opened an uptown studio as a sculptor.
In speaking of this time, he said, "We had struggles enough, for the new work had to earn the living as well as to make its way otherwise and without the encouragement, support and advice of my good wife I should not have come so far."
However, through it all he made constant progress and one class of patronage brought another until he was able to increase his portion of this world's goods without sacrificing his independence of mind. He was able to hold to his ideals and to enlarge his vision, producing work that has brought commendation and pleasure in many quarters.
Mr. and Mrs. Paulding are very amiable and pleasant people to meet and have a pretty home at Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago where Mr. Paulding renews his acquaintance with the farm by giving minute attention to the vegetable garden which is the pride of the Paulding place. There is nothing except quiet elegance to mark the Paulding home as different from those of others of the community as both Mr. and Mrs. Paulding believe it is quite as incumbent upon the artist to live quietly and sanely as it is upon the member of any other calling or profession and they taboo the Bohemianism that so commonly is regarded as a license allowed the artist.
The first work a sculptor has to do after getting his conception for his work of art, is to take pencil and paper and get an accurate drawing of the subject. When this suits his fancy, he begins to make a small clay model of about the proportions of two inches to one foot of the finished statue. This small model is called the sketch model and affords the sculptor an opportunity to study his subject in detail and to make changes where necessary. After the sketch model is approved he sets about to make full sized models of the more important portions so that he may not go wrong when he makes the full life-sized model.
The construction of the full-sized model is a difficult and important piece of work. In the first place a very strong framework of a horse had to be constructed of wood. On the timber bracing that conformed roughly to the shape of a horse, Mr. Paulding constructed with thin boards and lath the muscles and flesh of the horse. Then he put on from an inch to three inches of wet molding clay and worked out the finish outlines that made the model a real looking horse. The legs, tail, neck and head had to be jointed so that slight changes in their position could be made after the finished clay indicated that a slightly different pose would better carry out the sculptor's idea.
After the horse was completed the saddle was built in place. Then came the difficult part of constructing the man in such a way that he would look like the reality that was desired. In order to get this effectually, Mr. Paulding constructed a man on much the method used in the horse except that the framework of the man's arms and legs consisted of lead pipes which could be bent in any way desired. After the man was completely modeled in clay he was ready to be put on the horse, his legs bent until his feet rested naturally in the stirrups, and his arms bent into the desired positions. After that the necessary accessories were added and the man became a real rider of the horse just as much as if he had been a real man.
One gets an idea of the strength necessary in the framework when he realizes that the weight of the wet clay is about seven hundred pounds. On top of this the framework must support about a thousand pounds of plaster in making the plaster of paris cast for the bronze founder. Many a sculptor has computed wrongly only to come to his studio some morning to find that his nice work of art was only a heap of clay, the support having given way during the night because of the weight of wet clay.
A clay horse is a troublesome animal, needing attention almost constantly. All day long he has to be watered. The sculptor does this by taking a whisk broom and a pan of water with which he sprinkles the clay to keep it wet. At night, the horse must be carefully wrapped in blankets that have been soaked in water. Every particle of the clay must be kept moist until the plaster cast is taken - even after all the modeling is completed, or else the drying clay will show cracks which would spoil the whole work of art.
After the clay has been modeled to satisfaction and every detail is satisfactory, then the Italians are called in and with huge brushes bespatter the entire statue with a thin coat of wet plaster of paris. After this sets just enough to hold its shape, more is added until a thick coating covers all the clay. Then reinforcing material is added to hold still more plaster. This makes the mold in which is imprisoned the once beautiful statue. It is all sealed in and there is no way in which to get it out. After the mold is thoroughly dry the Italian master takes a common carpenter's saw and begins to cut the mold into pieces, digging out the clay as he takes parts of the mold away. There is now no more statue with its beautiful lines but instead the Italian has a mold which he takes to his shop and begins the construction of a plaster cast inside this mold. This will then be just like the clay model but will be much more durable. This is then hauled across the city for miles to the bronze foundry of Jules Bercham, an interesting little Frenchman who loves his art and welcomes the difficult work that it takes to work out in bronze what the sculptor made with such facility in mud.
The bronze founder has to begin all over making molds of the statue. These must be made much more durably than for the plaster cast, as they must receive the melted bronze. It took several hundreds molds, small and large, to cast the McPherson statue. These were fitted together and then the casting was made.
Bronze statues are made hollow, the thickness of the bronze in no place being less than about a quarter of an inch. This is done for artistic reasons as well as reasons of expense. If the statue were cast solid it would be impossible to get a good surface because of possible air holes and cracks on account of the outer portion cooling faster than the inner.
After the bronzes come from the molds all the sand must be brushed away and rough places made smooth. Then an acid bath cleans the entire work, after which a careful inspection is made of every inch of the bronze, every detail being carefully compared with the plaster copy of the sculptor's model. Here is where it is imperative that the bronze founder himself have the artistic instinct and McPherson county is fortunte to have been able to get the work done by such a lover of art as Mr. Jules Bercham.
After the work is pronounced finished the entire piece has to be wrapped in paper to keep the air from tarnishing it against the day of unveiling.
On another page is given the picture of the Tablet of Fame on which are inscribed the 752 McPherson county heroes of the Civil War. As many of these are gone to other climes and to the great beyond and their relatives can have no part in erecting this memorial in bronze, the committee decided to make an appeal for support from patriotic people who would not wish to have a single deserving veteran's name omitted.
The cost of the monument is provided for but this Tablet of Fame is not. Consequently it was decided to sell 752 medals at a dollar a piece - a dollar for a soldier's name. The accompanying picture gives the actual size of the beautiful bronze medal which will be sold for a dollar. As the number is limited, it will be a distinction in years to come to own one of these medals of award for patriotic service in honoring the patriot who fought for us the battle of freedom.
If you have not secured one, send your dollar to W. J. Krehbiel, McPherson, Kansas, and by return of mail you shall have a medal and the committee will give you credit for having paid for one soldier's name on the Tablet of Fame.
Transcribed from Official Souvenir McPherson County, July 4, 1917 [n.p., 1917] 56p. illus.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project