PONTIAC - A new statue of Abraham
Lincoln was unveiled last week outside the Livingston
County Courthouse, depicting a young Abe relaxing for a
few moments against a split-rail fence.
"They wanted a
Lincoln that was approximately the age that he was when
he came here, passing through when he was snowbound,
which was 31 years old," said Germaine Knudsen, a member
of Pontiac's statue committee. "At that time he didn't
have a beard, so this guy doesn't have a beard and that
kind of thing."
"They wanted something that would look like he was
here - right here - you know?"
Pontiac is the latest Illinois city in recent years
to commission a statue to celebrate Lincoln's travels
Like many of these - such as the "Lincoln with a pig"
sculpture in Taylorville, the Lincoln family on the Old
Capitol Plaza and Lincoln sitting on a bench outside the
McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington - it
portrays Lincoln in an informal setting.
Lincoln image experts aren't sure if there's a clear
trend toward casual Lincolns, although Thomas Schwartz,
interim director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum, does think "the era of a heroic
Lincoln is over."
Schwartz said smaller communities are beginning to
highlight their local Lincoln associations, prompted in
part by things such as the statewide Looking for Lincoln
Heritage Coalition program, the televised
Lincoln-Douglas debates on C-SPAN in the early 1990s and
the presidential museum.
"The overwhelming success of those kinds of things
gave new life to these communities who didn't realize
that their Lincoln heritage" was important, Schwartz
"(Personalizing) Lincoln, making him event-specific,
also is reflective in the literature. A lot of the
scholarly interest over the last decade has dealt with a
more introspective, private Lincoln, rather than the
Bloomington sculptor Rick Harney created the
interactive Lincoln statues in Livingston and McLean
counties. Harney could not be reached.
In Pontiac, Lincoln is shown leaning against the
fence, with both elbows propped up on the top rail. His
trademark top hat hangs on a post, and his coat is
draped over his right arm.
Decatur sculptor John McClarey, an internationally
known Lincoln artist whose work includes the
Lincoln-and-pig statue in Taylorville and the new
Lincoln statue at Union Square Park, also has noticed a
lightening of the tone of Lincoln depictions, at least
in central Illinois.
But McClarey can't say whether it's a full-blown
trend - after all, his new Union Square Park statue
certainly falls into the "heroic" category. At the same
time, though, McClarey has been asked by the Shelby
County Board to sculpt a relaxed Lincoln scene planned
for the courthouse in Shelbyville.
"I think there was a period in time when Lincoln
sculptures were more formal and posed him as a savior or
more a hero-worship type of presentation," he said. "But
the sculpting has changed to show him with his feet on
Daniel Pike can be reached 788-1532 or