Sunday, July 9, 2017

Visiting the Eagles Nest

On a recent drive with Tom Anderson and fellow photographer Stephen Beatty, We drove up to Oregon (Illinois) to visit and photograph the famed Eternal Indian statue that stood on the bluff of the river that had been designed by famed sculptor Lorado Taft.  Unfortunately the statue is covered up pending repairs and we were disappointed in That regard. However whilst there we took the opportunity to visit the Eagles Nest artists colony that Taft had founded in 1898.

Originally the colonists lived in tents and came from the Chicago Art institute and the University of Chicago's art department but after a formal charter was written they were permitted to build summer homes at the colony and often summered here to escape the sweltering heat of the big city.  It flourished for many years and dozens of up and coming artists, sculptors, and talented men and women paid the colony a visit.

The property changed hands in 1951 when governor Adlai Stevenson transferred ownership of a portion of what had become Lowden state park to Northern Illinois university for what is now known as the Lorado Taft field campus.  The campus is closed to the general public, but the day we were there Melanie from the office graciously allowed us access and gave us a tour of the remaining buildings and sculptural pieces still on site.

One of the most intriguing pieces is entitled the "Funeral Procession". It depicts a group of pallbearers carrying a casket as they march thru time. The story is that when the piece was commissioned in 1905 the six students who created it used their own likenesses for the faces of the figures cast. True or not I don't know but it's intriguing to think of a young artist ensuring he is immortalized in time. Nearby stands Taft's personal cottage. Done up in native field stone and red tile roofing, it abounds with period furnishings and lighting fixtures in the Arts and Crafts style that was so popular then. Nearby is the original dining hall with the bell that is still rung for every meal, showing
that nothing truly goes out of fashion.

   So if you're ever in the mood for a short drive, consider visiting Oregon and discovering the many architectural treasures that await your visit.

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