George Grey Barnard

George Grey Barnard was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania in 1863. Though by birthright a native of Pennsylvania, his family moved west eventually settling in Illinois when he was only three years old. From childhood Barnard manifested a determination and an aptitude for creating form with his hands. He worked as a taxidermist and later an engraver before entering the Art Institute of Chicago when he was nineteen. At the Institute, Barnard became enamored with the works of Italian master Michelangelo who he emulated throughout his lifetime. After his studies in Chicago, Barnard had made enough money from sculpting to travel to Paris to engage in advanced training. In Paris, Barnard was admitted to the prestigious cole des Beaux-Arts for a three-year term of study. He truly lived the Bohemian lifestyle of an artist reclusive, often penniless, and totally devoted to his art.

His first large commission came from Alfred Corning Clark of the Singer Manufacturing Company. Clark's commission was for the famous The Two Natures of Man, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Lauded for this creation, Barnard was relegated to financial hardship after the death of his patron in 1896. While he had several commissions that allowed him artistic survival, it was Joseph Huston's 1902 Capitol commission that again propelled Barnard to the forefront of the sculpting world. The original sculptural commission for Barnard was much larger than what was actually produced for the building another unfortunate side effect of monetary cutbacks in the construction costs. The original commission called for six sculptural groups, each to be situated on pedestals at all three of the Capitol's west entrances.

Barnard set out immediately sketching and creating small models of his sculpture in clay. As soon as the first of these models was complete those for the main entrance Barnard set off for France to begin the creation of the twenty-seven heroic figures. During his time in Moret, Barnard began collecting artwork from the Middle Ages in France as well as Gothic and Romanesque period pieces from his European travels. However, he often said he was no artist when it came to financial matters and, accordingly, it was widely known that he lived a bit beyond his means. To supplement his income, he was later forced to sell portions of his vast collection to wealthy American patrons to help pay for his workers and the marble casts of the Capitol groups. In 1904 the original sculptural scheme along with other artwork within the building was scaled back, which allowed Barnard to focus on completion of the two groups for the main entrance. Barnard completed these two groups in 1910. They were titled Love and Labor: The Unbroken Law the north group, and The Burden of Life: The Broken Law the south group, respectively.

The rough carving of these groups was done by the famed Piccirilli Brothers, a highly talented family of artists, many of whom had emigrated from Italy to New York City. The Piccirillis were also contracted to install the statues in 1911, inspect them for damage in 1928, and clean them in 1935. George Grey Barnard's finished groups were exhibited at the Paris Salon with praise from his contemporaries such as Auguste Rodin. President Roosevelt was returning from one of his African safaris and just happened to be in attendance at the Paris Salon. Upon seeing the statues he remarked that they were "ideal for a capitol." After their exhibition, the groups were disassembled and shipped to Harrisburg. Installed on October 4, 1911 a day that the legislature designated "Barnard Day" the magnificent marble groups were dedicated in front of a crowd of five thousand people. Notable dignitaries included former Governors James A. Beaver and Samuel W. Pennypacker, and artist Violet Oakley.

In 1917 Barnard produced a massive head of Abraham Lincoln that he called Lincoln in Thought. During this time Barnard continued his collecting of Romanesque and Gothic works of art and assembled a massive collection at his "Cloisters" museum in Washington Heights, New York, which he opened to the public in 1914. (Purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1925, today it is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) Barnard completed numerous other works of sculpture such as The God Pan located at Columbia University, The Hewer in Cairo, Illinois, and Rising Woman and Adam and Eve for the Rockefeller estate at Pocantico Hills, New York. He was at work on a massive project called the Rainbow Arch when he passed away in 1938. At his request, his body was moved to Harrisburg and he was buried in Harrisburg Cemetery, to be close to the Capitol statuary, which he considered to be his masterpiece.