Bela Pratt Nathan Hale (1912)
Bronze sculpture 35.0 x 11.0 x 9.25
University Club of Chicago

Pratt nathan hale

Pratt's highly successful composition is known by several casts. The first was cast for the Yale University campus Another example originally stood in front of Hale's birthplace in South Coventry, Connecticut. It was rescued and restored by a New York attorney who left it in his will to the U.S. Government.

In 1945 it was relocated to the Federal Triangle (Constitution & 9th) in Washington, D. C. Another cast was purchased by Colonel Robert R. McCormick and stands today at the entrance to the Tribune Tower in Chicago. Roman Bronze Works published the reduced scale versions in multiple examples Р twelve were initially cast for each member of the Yale Committee on Memorials.

Bela Lyon Pratt was born in Connecticut and showed early artistic promise as a child. Living and working in Jamaica Plain, MA, he attended Yale University School of Fine Arts and later would study at the Ecole des Beaux2Arts in Paris.

After graduating, he enrolled in the Arts Student League of New York, where he met his future artistic mentor, Augustus Saint2Gaudens. Pratt garnered a reputation for capturing the life and spirit of the human form in his large2scale bronze sculpture work.

In 1893, he exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition, where his sculpture Genius'of'Navigation received much admiration and attention.

This exhibition opportunity led him to exhibit at the Pan2American Exposition, gaining even further support for his sculptural practice and figurative portraiture. With a successful sculpture career, Pratt took up teaching at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which he would hold for 25 years.

His subject matter was often Boston’s intellectual and political elite. Yale University commissioned Pratt to sculpt Nathan Hale, an American Revolutionary spy, and they wanted him portrayed as “young, fresh, unspoiled, country bred.” Successful in his portrayal of Hale, replicas of the sculpture stand at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, the Governor’s Mansion in Hartford, Connecticut, the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and other locations.

 In 1907, Pratt experienced another artistic triumph when he was commissioned to design a gold U.S. coin. Known as the “Pratt coins,” his coin displayed a gold Indian Head and eagle, and they are the U.S. mint’s only recessed design in circulation.

Pratt died on May 18, 1917 at the age of 49, but completed over 180 sculptures in his short career. In 1918, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, held a retrospective of 125 of his sculptures. At the entrance to the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue, Pratt’s sculpture of Nathan Hal stands tall as a guardian over the city.

Pratt ‘s artistic influence in Chicago is best felt in this public sculpture, where the union of patriotism and art demonstrate Pratt’s mastery of reviving history and capturing the human form in sculpture. This Nathan Hale cast bronze sculpture is a small scale replica of the commissioned work by Yale University.

The bronze sculpture depicts Nathan Hale, in the round, standing on a square base. The figure stands erect, shoulders strong and broad, with his arms behind his back and his face looking forward. Upon first glance, it would seem as if the figure was posed in a moment of recognition or glory, but upon further study, the hands and feet are both bound by rope.

This rendering of Hale displays him as a captive of the British military, before he was sent to the gallows to be hung. It is said that Hale’s final words were “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” and the proud sense of American patriotism is felt in Pratt’s portrayal of the figure.

He does not look fearful or beaten down by his capture, but faces his fate with a forward gaze and strong posture evoking pride, strength, and bravery. In the details of the figure, one senses the respect that Pratt paid towards the Revolutionary.

Hale was held prisoner before he was hung, but Pratt depicts him with his hair neat, his shirt tucked into his pants, and his vest fully buttoned. Pratt’s details signal that this was a man of composure and gentlemanly qualities. Pratt’s mastery of bronze is felt in the texture and sense of movement across the figure.

While his attire is neat and well fitting, it also appears to wrinkle and fall across the body in an organic matter. The lapels of the open dress coat pull away from the torso, giving a sense that the fabric was light and blowing in the wind.

Pratt brings history to life, creating a sculptural representation of Nathan Hale’s sacrifice for the American nation, his bravery as a soldier, and his sense of self and respectable character in the final moments before his tragic death.

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