The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser
1968 Medal/MAco 1963-001-055





Coin Details

Origin/Country: UNITED STATES
Design Description: MEDALLIC ART CO. MEDALS
Full Grade: NGC MS 67 BN
Owner: gherrmann44

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Explorer NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at New York University elected candidates to the hall based on their significant contributions to America. Some of hall’s honorees were people of renown in the discipline of the arts. Portraitist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) was elected to the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year (1900). Gilbert Stuart, who with other famous paintings, is credited with painting the portraits of the first six presidents of the United States. [1][2]

Today Gilbert Stuart is remembered either consciously or unconsciously every time a one dollar bill is used in commerce. This is because his incomplete “Athenaeum” portrait of George Washington appears on the face of the one dollar bill. Gilbert Stuart’s name also appears in the annals of numismatic legend. In a story that cannot be substantiated, it is said that his sketch of Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham was the basis for the obverse of the Draped Bust Dollar. [3][4]

A portrait bust of Gilbert Stuart done by Laura Gardin Fraser for the Hall of Fame was unveiled on May 20, 1922. The accompanying 1968 dated medal was completed by Karl Gruppe after the death of Mrs. Fraser. Karl Gruppe finished the obverse model of Gilbert Stuart started by Mrs. Fraser and designed the reverse featuring a young Gilbert Stuart working on his famous “Athenaeum” head of George Washington. [5]

In spite of the quality and volume of her life’s work concluding with the Mary Lyon and Gilbert Stuart medals, Laura Gardin Fraser did not always receive the recognition she deserved. Throughout their life together, it seemed that Laura lived in the shadow of her famous husband James. Even in her death, some 13 years after James, her most notable epitaph was that she was the widow of James Earle Fraser. [6] Nevertheless, the many awards Laura Gardin Fraser received for her artistic genius give witness to her as a leading sculptor of her time.

In the private confines of their studios things were different for James and Laura. There, they considered each other as equals. Both Frasers gave each other the freedom to express themselves through their art without interference or undue influence from the other. Still the Frasers were very aware of how the public perceived them. Whenever Laura finished a commission, James and Laura had a standing bet as to how long it would take for someone to comment, “Bet Mr. Fraser helped you with this one.” One time Laura in fun snapped back at a wealthy patron, “Just who is this James Earle Fraser I keep hearing about?” [7]

Today in 2016, 50 years after the death of Laura Gardin Fraser, I believe that time has righted many of the wrongs done to her as evidenced by the 1999 Washington Half-Eagle commemorative. I also think that in correcting those wrongs, history takes nothing away from James Earle Fraser. This then is exactly how I think both Frasers would have wanted it. James and Laura loved each other very much and only wanted the best for each other. They both had a full and wonderful life together doing what they loved to do best. To them it was all about the sculpted art!

1 Wikipedia;
2 Gilbert Stuart the Complete Works;
3 History of the United States Mint and its Coinage by David W. Lange, pg. 38
4 The US Mint and Coinage by Don Taxay, pg. 106
5 The accompanying COA to the Gilbert Stuart medal
6 The Meadowlark Gallery;
7 The End of the Trail, the Odyssey of a Statue by Dean Krakel; chap. 4

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