CM: Frances Rich was a professional student at Cranbrook Academy of Art under Carl Milles, along with fellow students Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames, Maija Grotell, and Eliel & Eero Saarinen between February 1937 and January 1940. Up until 1937, Rich was doing children's portraits. Then, Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee (1864-1940), the head of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, informed her of the Army and Navy memorial idea. It was Rich's first chance to do monumental sculpture. The present work is her scale study for the Army & Navy Nurse memorial. A small model made of plaster of Paris, it was enlarged five times to reach the 305 cm of pink Tennessee marble for the final statue at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. On one of the related archival photographs Rich describes this one as the "model that was carried all over Washington, DC, to army-navy nurse officers concerned and surgeons general", and then adds, "Got the commission on this!"
Rich began work on the Army & Navy Nurse memorial at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1937. Between July and November of that year she went to Rome, Naples, Florence, Paris, Munich and Garmisch with Carl and Olga Milles, under the supervision of the former, to look at and study draperies and folds in classical and renaissance sculpture. Rich was especially drawn to the Munich Glyptothek with its "very primitive and beautiful" [Roy Slade 1981, p.15] figures from the Athena Aphaia temple from Aegina Island, all of which she drew. Looking at the nurse figure, one observes ridges on her cape that relate to the folds in the garment of Athena on the west pediment's center. Rich was not necessarily after the classical, but searching for simplicity. Upon her return she designed the figure based on her study notes, again under Milles' tutelage. It took her 40 days of constant work to arrive at the scale study. Milles advised her: "We must strive to take the spirit and knowledge and skill from these people (Egyptians, Greeks, Etruscan, and Italians), but not copy them" [ibid, p.82]. Therefore, she rendered the nurse's cape with aesthetic economy and sensible variation in mind. Rich says, "I never could have done it without Carl's guidance" [ibid, p.3]. Milles gave her invaluable aesthetic advice as follows: "The sun is our friend and our enemy. [...] Make the relief as low as possible." [ibid, p.96] "Fill it only as a breath" [ibid, p.97]. "A long line is better than a short one" [ibid, p.98]. As a result, Rich fashioned the body surfaces with smooth and simple planes. Milles also advised her to deviate from reality, as the "right measure can very often kill a work" [ibid, p.97]. "It is always better to give less [detail]" [ibid, p.100]. Rich departed from the academic style and created a sculpture that is at the same time archaic, modern and heroic. As revealed here revealed, Rich eventually arrived at a beautiful, moving and graceful design.
[Megakles Rogakos 01/2009]
SLADE, ROY Interview with Frances Rich 24/02/1981 The Frances L. Rich Archives, Payson, AZ
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Frances Rich - La Gazelle 2010 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens