Radical stylistic changes in late nineteenth and twentieth century art and accompanying accommodations in taste have for many years resulted in frequently undeserved scorn for more traditionally inclined or “academic” works of art from the same period. In the case of sculpture of the type, in fact, such attitudes have caused a virtual banishment of many fine and expressive pieces from public view to basement or attic storage areas (dependent upon their weight, one would suppose) or, even worse, into oblivion. Indeed, it was not before the late 1960s and 1970s that an effective countering of this broadly-based critical tendency began to make significant progress. Today, such art historians and museum curators as Wayne Craven, William H. Gerdts, John Dryfhout, and now Rell G. Francis in his concise, but somehow very full, study of Cryus E. Dallin’s life and works, seek successfully to fill an informational and critical gap that has existed since the early writings of Lorado Taft and Chandler Post.
Mr. Francis states that the purpose of his study is “to introduce, interpret, and identify rather than evaluate,” and establish “a factual basis upon which historians and art critics may build . . .” (p. xiv). Additionally, the author hopes his book “will help establish . . . Dallin in the position he deserves as one of the foremost American sculptors of the past century” (p. xv). Exceeding his first two objectives, Francis has written a book that is often very moving in its collected insights regarding the sculptor’s triumphs, tribulations, and character.