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Margaret French Cresson in front of the Chesterwood Studio, 1944. All photos are Courtesy Chapin Library, Williams College, Gift of the National Trust for Historic Preservation/Chesterwood, Stockbridge, MA

Chesterwood, the home, studio, and gardens of sculptor Daniel Chester French, celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special exhibition recognizing French’s daughter, Margaret French Cresson (1889–1973) as an artist in her own right as well as honoring her dedication to preserving Chesterwood.

French, best known for his sculpture of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., divided his time between New York City and Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he and his family spent their summers starting in 1897. His only child, Margaret, enjoyed entertaining friends in the country and often sculpted alongside her father in his studio. After French and his wife, Mary, passed away, Margaret inherited Chesterwood, making it her full-time home in the 1950s.

Passionate about keeping her father’s artistic legacy alive, she donated Chesterwood, with the exception of the Residence, where she lived until her death in 1973, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., which opened the property as a historic site to the public on June 9, 1969. After Cresson’s death, the Residence and its contents became the property of the National Trust as well.

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Margaret French Cresson sculpting in the studio at Chesterwood, 1915
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Margaret French Cresson posing as Evangeline for Daniel Chester French’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Memorial (Cambridge, MA) in the studio at Chesterwood, 1914
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Margaret French Cresson and Daniel Chester French in the studio at Chesterwood (DCF is working on his model for “Brooklyn”), ca. 1915

“Margaret French Cresson: Her Artistic Life and Legacy in Preserving Chesterwood” will feature historical photographs that illustrate Cresson’s life at Chesterwood: modeling for her father, socializing with friends and family, and creating sculpture in the studio, as well as photographs of her as the “keeper” of Chesterwood. The exhibition will also highlight her work as a sculptor through portrait reliefs, small bronzes, exhibition photographs, and catalogues. Other personal objects, such as diaries, scrapbooks, writings, and ephemera will contribute to an understanding of Cresson’s life and her involvement in civic activities in Stockbridge and the Berkshires at large.

“Margaret French Cresson’s remarkable life as the daughter of a famous American artist was shaped by Chesterwood and the Berkshire community that she eventually called home. It seems only fitting as we celebrate the site’s 50th anniversary that we acknowledge her role in preserving Chesterwood, as well as her own creative pursuits,” said Donna Hassler, Chesterwood’s executive director and co-curator of the exhibition.

“Margaret French Cresson: Her Artistic Life and Legacy in Preserving Chesterwood” is on view at the Stockbridge Library, Archives, and Museum (Massachusetts) through April 30, 2019. The exhibition has been generously sponsored, in part, by Owen Lewis and Susan Ennis, and Sohn Fine Art.


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