Biografie von John ROGERS (1829-1904)

Birth place: Salem, MA

Death place: New Canaan, CT.

Addresses: NYC, active 1859-94; New Canaan, CT (after his retirement in 1894)

Profession: Sculptor

Studied: Went abroad in the fall of 1858, first going to Paris, where he studied with Dantin, and then to Rome, where he briefly entered the atelier of a British sculptor named Spence

Exhibited: Chicago Fair, 1859 ("Checker Players," was a huge success); Brooklyn AA, 1862-74; PAFA, 1864; NAD, 1860-92; Paris Salon, 1865; Centenn. Expo, Phila., 1876 (29 works); World's Columbian Expo, Chicago 1893 (gold); NAD, 1861-92

Member: N.A., 1863; NSS.

Work: An almost complete collection of Rogers' published" work (his groups) is at the NYHS, which also owns his papers"

Comments: Best known for his "Rogers Groups" (small figural sculpture groups of historical and literary notables, and genre). Rogers grew up in Cincinnati, OH, and Northampton and Roxbury, MA. He went to work at age 16 as clerk; worked as draftsman and mechanic in Mass., N.H., and Missouri, 1848-57. He began modelling small groups in clay as early as 1849, but it was not until 1858 that he decided to become a professional sculptor. While studying in Rome, he met the Americans Richard Greennough, William Wetmore Story, Harriet Hosmer, and others. He became convinced that the simplicity and restraint of the neoclassical style was not for him and that he instead preferred a naturalistic style, rich in detail, that could help tell the stories he wanted his scupture to convey. Returned to the U.S. (Roxbury, Mass.) by spring of 1859 and soon took a drafting job in Chicago, but within a few months he had won notice for his little clay grouping, Checker Players," the first of the type that came to be known as the "Rogers Groups." This praise encouraged him to make a career out of these small-scale genre works. Moving to NYC in the fall of 1859, he opened a studio and over the next thirty-five years created over 80 works of the "Rogers Groups" type. Reproduced as small (from 13" to 22" high) plaster works painted a neutral (tan or gray) color, over 80,000 replicas were sold in Rogers' lifetime. His work was affordable, usually about ten or fifteen dollars each, and easily available through Rogers' own catalogue mail-order business. Anecdotal and often humorous in nature, his subject matter was taken largely from everday life ("Coming to the Parson," 1870; and "Weighing the Baby," 1876; "Checkers up at the Farm," 1877). He also created narratives out of contemporary issues and events, including slavery and the Civil War ("The Slave Auction," 1859; "Wounded to the Rear--One More Shot," 1864; and "The Fugitive's Story," 1869) and portrayed colorful scenes from literature (such as Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle). Rogers made some small portrait sculptures, including likenesses of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Henry Ward Beecher.

Sources: G&W; WW04; Smith, Rogers Groups; Barck, "John Rogers;" DAB; David Wallace, John Rogers, the People's Sculptor (1967); Craven, Sculpture in America, 357-366; Baigell, Dictionary; Fink, American Art at the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salons, 385."

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