Dickens and Little Nell (1890)

by Frank Edwin Elwell (1858 - 1922)

Photo Caption: Photo Alec Rogers © 2016 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Dickens and Little Nell

  • Artist

    Frank Edwin Elwell (1858 - 1922)

  • Year

    1890; purchased 1900; installed 1901

  • Location

    Clark Park, 43rd Street and Chester Avenue

  • Medium

    Bronze, on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Little Nell: height 5’4″ Dickens: height 6’8 1/2″ (base 6’8 1/2″)

Purchased by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the City of Philadelphia

At A Glance

  • Originally commissioned by the Washington newspaper publisher Stilson Hutchins

  • Dickens’s own will prohibited any “monument, memorial or testimonial, whatever”

  • Awarded two gold medals at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago

  • In 1989, Friends of Clark Park raised funds to repair vandalism

Originally commissioned by the Washington newspaper publisher Stilson Hutchins, Dickens and Little Nell pays tribute to the ever-popular but tragic heroine of The Old Curiosity Shop.

Dickens and Little Nell in Clark Park
Photo © Association for Public Art

When the publisher was unable to make the final payments for the work, the prolific portrait sculptor, Frank Edwin Elwell, returned the money already advanced and took the work to England with the hope of finding a buyer. Instead, he discovered that Dickens’s own will prohibited any “monument, memorial or testimonial, whatever. I rest my claims to remembrance on my published works and to the remembrance of my friends upon their experiences of me.”

Elwell returned to America to exhibit the work in Chicago at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, where it was awarded two gold medals. After four years of negotiations, the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) purchased the sculpture in 1900 and installed it in Clark Park in 1901.

After vandals damaged the sculpture in 1989, the Friends of Clark Park raised funds for its repair.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

 

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