Keck’s Lincoln Sculpture an Important Part of New Exhibit

By Jasper Collier

In 1932, the town of Wabash, Indiana unveiled their newly completed sculpture of Abraham Lincoln on their courthouse lawn. The piece by sculptor Charles Keck remains one of the most realistic and human models of the sixteenth president. A maquette of Keck’s seated Lincoln has been on display in the Visitor Education Center at the President Lincoln’s Cottage since the site opened in February, but it has recently been moved into the special exhibit gallery. Until December 19th, the piece, which was a gift of Faye F. and Sheldon S. Cohen, will feature prominently in the new exhibit, “A Deep and Subtle Expression: Lincoln in Sculpture.”

"Abraham Lincoln" by Charles Keck

Keck was born in New York City in 1875, and is primarily known for his portraits and sculptures of famed Americans including Lewis and Clark, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Booker T. Washington. Though he was an accomplished artist by the time he began work on the Lincoln sculpture, he agonized over every detail and produced numerous studies in hopes of capturing the essence of Lincoln’s humanity and compassion. Keck produced a standing and a seated Lincoln, but Alexander New, who had commissioned the piece, preferred the seated version.

Many of the objects on display in “A Deep and Subtle Expression” are from other National Trust Historic Sites, and it is fitting that Keck’s sculpture represents President Lincoln’s Cottage. It is not as heroic or triumphant as the pieces by Daniel Chester French, or as scientific in detail as the life masks or hand sketches, but it is an image of an approachable and understanding individual – exactly who Lincoln was during his summers at the Soldiers’ Home.

Mr. Collier is a 2008 Summer Intern at President Lincoln’s Cottage.


Filed under Collections, Exhibits, History

8 responses to “Keck’s Lincoln Sculpture an Important Part of New Exhibit

  1. Nancy Keck Molina

    Charles Keck was my great uncle- my grandfather Maxfield Keck’s brother. I never knew him, he died when I was 2, but I really admire his work!

    • presidentlincolnscottage

      Thanks, Nancy. Did your grandfather ever talk about his brother’s work or how he felt about Lincoln?

      • Nancy Keck Molina

        My grandfather, Maxfield Keck, passed away before I was born, when my father was still in his teens, so I did not have the privilege of knowing him either. My sister Vicki and I visited New York a few years ago and were able to see some of our grandfather’s architectural sculpture on the Riverside Church.

      • Nancy

        I tried to reply to this, but don’t see my reply showing up. My grandfather, Maxfield Keck, died before I was born.

  2. John Lindenthal

    Charles Keck was my great uncle, also. (Brother of my grandmother Hermine Keck Lindenthal). I believe that his birthplace (New York City) is incorrect – my records show that he was born in Giessen, Hesse, Germany in 1875. I do have memories of visiting his studio on West 10th Street and being impressed with some of his works in progress.

  3. Nancy Keck Molina

    My Dad (George Maxfield Keck) is still alive (83) and lives here in Corning, California, and his brother Henry C. Keck (90), a retired industrial designer, lives in Pasadena, CA.

  4. barbsstuff

    I was just looking into some of Charles Keck’s work and came upon these comments. I am another one of George Keck’s daughters so Charles Keck was also my great uncle. Impressive work! I hope to see some of it in person someday.

  5. Nancy

    I was excited when I got to see the Father Duffy statue in Times Square and the Winged Victory statue in Montclair, New Jersey! (Both by Charles Keck.) I would love to see more of our grandfather’s work too! -Nancy Keck Molina

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