Cyrus E. Dallin was a noted sculptor born in Springville, Utah in 1861. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often called Mormons. Growing up, he frequently played with the Native American children nearby, setting the stage for a career in which his most noted works were often of Native Americans. He and his Native American friends often sculpted animals from the clay, sparking his interest in sculpture.
While doing odd jobs at his father’s mine, he took some discovered white clay and sculpted it. These creations were shown to many and two patrons decided to pay for his journey to go east to study. His traveling companions were a group of Crow Indians. He was eighteen when he made that trip. He then moved to Paris about ten years later. There he studied sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and at Academie Julien under Henri Chapu.
In 1883, he won a contract to create a statue of Paul Revere to be placed in Boston, MA. However, he made five models of it before one was finally accepted and then funding fell through. It was not until 1940 that the completed statue was finally displayed. Throughout the process, he never gave up, a quality for which he was noted.
In 1890 he returned to Massachusetts but then went to Utah, where he created the Angel Moroni statue found on the spire of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.The statue became the model for other statues of Moroni and today is recognized as a symbol of the Church. By the time Cyrus was asked to do this statue, he had left the church and become a Unitarian. He initially did not want to do the project, but in the end, he agreed. He said that creating that statue brought him closer to God than anything else he’d ever done. Cyrus then spent a year teaching at Drexel College in Philadelphia, PA, and creating a statue of Sir Isaac Newton for the Library of Congress, completed in 1895. Following this he returned to Paris to study and to create several more sculptures.
From 1900 to 1941, he taught at what is now the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, but also created commissioned art works. His work in creating visually appealing public art is credited by many with changing the nation’s perception of such projects. Many of his works featured Native Americans or historical figures.
In 1904, Dallin won a bronze medal in archery at the Olympics in Missouri. That same year, his Sioux Chief won a medal at the St. Louis Exposition. In all, he created about 260 sculptures.
About Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.