Looking Back with Aurore Eaton: Local sculptor chosen to create monument for Pulaski ParkBy AURORE EATON
October 22. 2017 10:35PM
On Oct. 12, 1933, Tremont Common, one of the original public spaces developed in Manchester during the Victorian era, was rededicated as Pulaski Park.
From that special first official Pulaski Day event in Manchester the park has served as a symbol of remembrance for a hero of the American Revolution, Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski. By honoring the contributions of this young man from Poland who gave his life in the fight for American independence, the park also serves as a reminder of the important contributions of all Polish Americans.
About a year later, on Oct. 14, 1934, a grand gathering was held in Manchester to launch a fund drive to raise the money needed to build a suitable monument to Pulaski to serve as the centerpiece and focal point of the park. This effort was led by leaders in the local Polish American community, with support from many citizens of other national origins.
This event resulted in total donations of around $2,000 toward the goal of $10,000. The committee hoped that the monument could be completed before Pulaski Day in 1935, but the project would not be completed until 1938, as there were challenges along the way.
In the months that followed, the members of the committee continued to raise money, and they also considered options for hiring a qualified artist to carry out the commission. In 1935 they decided on which sculptor could best design the monument they envisioned. It was fortunate that the person they chose — Lucien H. Gosselin — happened to live and work in Manchester.
Lucien Hippolyte Gosselin was born in Whitefield, a small town in northern New Hampshire, in 1883. His parents, Fidèle and Lucrèce Hébert Gosselin, were French-speaking immigrants from Québec, Canada. When Gosselin was 3, the family moved to Manchester where Fidèle found work as a laborer and watchman. He sometimes worked for the Stark Manufacturing Company in the mill yard, and Lucrèce earned money as a dressmaker. Gosselin attended local schools, including Saint Augustin Academy. After graduating, he assisted his brothers Achille and Rosario in their barbershop.
Gosselin exhibited considerable artistic talent at a young age. Perhaps his creative inclination was a family gift, as his mother’s brother was Louis-Philip Hébert of Montreal. Hébert was one of Canada’s most celebrated sculptors, designing many important public monuments, including the famous statue of Evangeline in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia. Gosselin showed an aptitude for drawing and painting, and especially for three-dimensional work. He was fortunate, as his family encouraged him to pursue a career in art. He first studied under Emile Maupas, a French artist who was living in Manchester.
In 1911, Gosselin moved to Paris to pursue a formal art education. He was there for five years, studying at the Académie Julian, a prestigious private art school. Gosselin excelled as a student, especially in sculpture. He won awards at the Académie, and his art was chosen for exhibition at the Salons des Artistes Français.
Gosselin returned to Manchester in 1916. He organized a studio and began establishing himself as a professional sculptor, and soon received numerous commissions. He had a natural command of portraiture and among his works are medallions featuring bas-relief likenesses, as well as portrait busts, many depicting notable people in the Franco-American community.
One of his busts is a refined depiction in bronze of Judge Alfred J. Chretien of Manchester, completed c.1930, which is in the collection of the Currier Museum of Art. As he enjoyed teaching, in 1920 Gosselin agreed to become an instructor of sculpture at the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the New Hampshire Institute of Art).
Gosselin produced a variety of excellent monuments for parks, churches, schools and other sites in New Hampshire and elsewhere in New England. His masterpiece prior to the Pulaski Park commission was undoubtedly the 1929 Victory (World War I) Monument in Victory Park in Manchester that includes five dramatically modeled bronze figures.
Other examples of his art in Manchester are the Henry J. Sweeney Memorial and marble sculptures in the chapel of St. Joseph’s Cathedral. He also designed the Father Joseph E. Dubois monument in Laconia and, in Nashua, the Monsignor Jean Baptiste Henri Victor Milette monument.
Next week: The design for the future Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski monument is revealed.
Aurore Eaton is a historian and writer in Manchester, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.facebook.com/AuroreEatonWriter.