R. Tait McKenzie

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R. Tait McKenzie
R. Tait McKenzie 5126121000 b69de5f0ba o.jpg
Born Robert Tait McKenzie
(1867-05-26)May 26, 1867
Ramsay Township, Lanark County, Ontario
Died April 28, 1938(1938-04-28) (aged 71)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality Canadian, American
Known for Sculpting

Robert Tait McKenzie (sometimes written MacKenzie) (May 26, 1867 – April 28, 1938) was a Canadian-born sculptor, doctor, soldier, physical educator, athlete and Scouter. Born in Ramsay Township, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada, he resided in several cities, including Montreal and Philadelphia, before finally residing at the Mill of Kintail in Almonte, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada.

Biography[edit]

He was born on May 26, 1867 in the township of Ramsay (now part of the Town of Mississippi Mills), in Lanark County, Ontario, and his childhood friend was James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, with whom he attended McGill University. As a child, McKenzie did not regard himself as an athlete, saying,

"Looking back with an eye of memory I see a rather delicate child, sensitive at being called pale-faced, a roamer of the woods and fields with a mind filled with romance that Sir Walter Scott and Fenimore Cooper alone could instill, going unwillingly to school, distracted by thoughts of the Deerslayer..."[1]

R Tait McKenzie's signature on "The Call"

McGill University[edit]

This attitude changed when he enrolled in pre-med at McGill University in 1885.[2] Throughout his time at McGill, he developed a great appreciation for athletics and physical training, and discovered they had captured his heart and soul.[3] McKenzie became involved in acrobatics and gymnastics, set a five foot nine inch high jump record, ran hurdles, boxed, played football, and was on the tug-of-war team.[4] In 1889, he won the Wickstead gold medal becoming an acknowledged gymnastic champion.[5] McKenzie found his own athletic abilities focused on sports that did not solely require strength or stamina, but rather skill, coordination, and practice.[6]

During his senior year at McGill, McKenzie was an intern at the University Hospital.[7] He graduated from McGill University in 1892 Medicinæ Doctorem et Chirurgiæ Magistrum, and then got an internship at Montreal General Hospital.[8] As McKenzie gained more and more experience as a physician and surgeon, developed his own medical practice and became an anatomy instructor at McGill, he became more and more convinced for the need for preventive medicine.[9] As a result of this idea, he developed a program of physical exercise for the prevention of disease, physical breakdown and accidents through the training and conditioning of the body.[9]

A highlight of McKenzie's career came in 1894 when he was contracted as the personal family physician of the current Governor General of Canada, the Marquis of Aberdeen.[10] He spent 15 months in the Governor General's household, and the experience allowed him to mingle with various political figures.[11]

During the 1890s, McKenzie requested McGill invest in physical training for students by developing a department and school of physical education.[12] He wanted to customize the athletic programs for each type of student (3 categories: athletic, sedentary, or bookworm),[13] but McGill denied his request because it was not in the school's budget to create a full department of physical education. As a compromise, in 1898, McGill appointed him as Medical Director of Physical Training and allowed him to start physical examinations for incoming students.[12] McKenzie was the first ever to have such an appointment at a Canadian university.[12]

With both his duties at McGill and his medical practice in Montreal, McKenzie needed an escape; art. He first turned to watercolour sketching, and always kept a small notebook in his pocket in which he would scribble whenever something caught his eye.[14] His interest in sculpting was a result of his extensive knowledge of human anatomy, portraying athletics artistically and the limitations present in portraying musculature in two-dimensional art forms.[15]

McKenzie's first untrained sculptural effort was a series of masks known as Violent Effort, Breathlessness, Fatigue and Exhaustion.[15] To achieve these masks, he had studied facial muscles under conditions of both physical and emotional stress.[16] To complete this series of artistic work, he wrote an article entitled "The Facial Expression of Violent Effort, Breathlessness and Fatigue," which was published circa 1900 in the Journal of Anatomy and Physiology in London.[16]

His first sculptural piece in the round was The Sprinter. The design of the piece involved measurements of limbs and torsos of many athletes, including McGill students.[15] The Sprinter was second in a series of over 200 works that included athletic figures, military figures, busts, masks, friezes and medallions.[15] These works of art are displayed all over Canada, the United States, England and Scotland.[12] His sculpture earned him membership in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.[17]

University of Pennsylvania[edit]

Because of his unique position at McGill University, McKenzie was offered and accepted a position at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1904.[12][18] He saw potential in the offer because it gave him a permanent faculty position, and the university had a new gymnasium, football stadium, running track and other recently constructed facilities.[12] His position as Director of the Physical Education Department came with the opportunity to develop, test and implement his theories on health and athletics.[19]

Relief bust of J. William White (1919), Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

While in Philadelphia, he also worked closely with Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting.[20]

During 1907, McKenzie met and married musician and poet Ethel O'Neil, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, while on a voyage to England.[21]

As a longtime supporter and spectator at the Olympic Games, McKenzie often participated as an exhibitor during the competition of fine arts.[22] To commemorate the Olympic Games scheduled for Stockholm in 1912, the American Olympic Committee commissioned him to create a sports medallion.[23] The result was one of his most famous works, the Joy of Effort medallion. Later, at the 1924 Paris Olympics, McKenzie would win a medal for a sculpture.

In 1915, with the outbreak of the First World War, McKenzie made his way to England to enlist with the Canadian Forces. Eager to volunteer his services as a physician and surgeon, McKenzie chose instead to enlist with the Royal Army Medical Corps after encountering some red tape and delays in his paperwork.[24] Given the commission of Lieutenant (and later becoming Major),[25] they quickly assigned him to the physical training program for newly arrived soldiers.[22] His first task was to inspect and report on the condition of the training camps.[22] Once the organization of the training camps was completed, he spent six months working out of orthopedic care centers, with some of his work involving taking individuals disabled by war and designing specific prosthetic apparatus that would suit their needs.[26] He also spent a large portion of his time helping plastic surgeon Dr. William L. Clark rehabilitate those whose faces had been disfigured by war.[26]

After the war, McKenzie returned to his position at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1930, he left his post at the University as teaching there was no longer an enjoyable part of his life because of the bureaucracy that had become attached to his job.[18][27]

Almonte[edit]

In McKenzie's final years, he was an internationally recognized figure and comparatively well off, so that he had the ability to retire anywhere. In 1931, he received an invitation from the Mayor of Almonte to return to his hometown to participate in the celebration of Almonte's 50th Anniversary of Incorporation.[28] During the celebrations, the mayor offered McKenzie "The Freedom of Almonte" - a local award of recognition.[29] While in town, he decided to explore his old boyhood haunts and came across the old gristmill known as Baird's Mill. The mayor encouraged McKenzie and his wife to purchase the property.[30] The property had long since become abandoned; however, it was situated in a picturesque setting, making a perfect retirement home that would kindle McKenzie's artistic imagination.[31] After Ethel O'Neil McKenzie's death in 1954, the Mill of Kintail, as McKenzie and his wife Ethel renamed the property, passed eventually into management by the local natural resource management office, the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, who open the museum to the public from May to October.[32] During his retirement, McKenzie took advantage of the peaceful surroundings of Almonte. Being a man who could never sit still for very long, a typical summer's day would find him working in his studio, walking in the woods, swimming, canoeing, going into town or giving presentations to local groups.[33] His spirit refused to allow him to slow down, despite warnings from his physician about his deteriorating heart, and consequently, McKenzie collapsed suddenly and died on April 28, 1938.[20][34]

Legacy[edit]

R. Tait McKenzie's influence was so strong in the fields of physical education, medicine, the arts, and the military that hundreds of individuals expressed sadness and felt personal loss in his passing. These emotions were demonstrated by the condolences sent to his widow, Ethel.[35] He was a prominent Canadian and modern Renaissance man whose international renown stemmed from his passion for physical health, which was incorporated into all of his various talents. Although he enrolled at McGill University with the intent on pursuing a medical career, it was his many other varied endeavours that led to his identification as a remarkable Canadian. His time at McGill saw him pioneering physical fitness programs in Canada.[36] During the war, his methods and inventions that helped restore and rehabilitate those injured by war have since provided a sound basis for the development of modern physiotherapy practices.[11] He created over two hundred works of art seen around the world today, and even the old gristmill he had lovingly restored, is itself representative of his spirit and a fitting memorial to McKenzie.

A collection of his work can be seen at his former residence, the Mill of Kintail, also known as the R. Tait McKenzie Memorial Museum at the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area in Almonte, Ontario.

The Joseph B. Wolffe Collection of R. Tait McKenzie Sculpture of Athletes is housed on the campus of the University of Tennessee.

Near the end of his life, McKenzie expressed a wish that following his death his heart be buried in front of the Scottish-American War Memorial that he had created in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this request was denied by the "corporation of that city", but his heart was subsequently buried at the nearby St. Cuthbert churchyard. An elementary school in Almonte, Ontario was named after him in 1998.

Olympic medal record
Art competitions
Bronze 1932 Los Angeles Medals and reliefs

Tait McKenzie Centre is a sports facility named after him at York University in Toronto, Canada.

Selected works[edit]

The Ideal Scout[edit]

The original statue in Philadelphia
Main article: The Ideal Scout

His most famous sculpture is The Ideal Scout, also known as The Boy Scout. This has been reproduced and sits in front of many U.S. Boy Scout offices across the nation, as well as at the Philadelphia headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America, and Gilwell Park, Australia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 3.
  2. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 10-11.
  3. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 10-11.
  4. ^ Joseph Hanaway and Richard L. Cruess, McGill Medicine - 1885 to 1936 (McGill-Queen's University Press: Montreal, 1996), 233.
  5. ^ Frank Cosentino, Almonte's Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 48.
  6. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 13.
  7. ^ Major James Farquharson Leys, "The Life of a Remarkable Man." The Canadian Army Journal (January 1955), 98.
  8. ^ Joseph Hanaway and Richarrd L. Cruess, McGill Medicine – 1885 to 1936 (McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1996), 234.
  9. ^ a b Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 22.
  10. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 28-30.
  11. ^ a b Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 37.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Joseph Hanaway and Richarrd L. Cruess, McGill Medicine – 1885 to 1936 (McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1996), 55.
  13. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 23.
  14. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 26.
  15. ^ a b c d Joseph Hanaway and Richarrd L. Cruess, McGill Medicine – 1885 to 1936 (McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1996), 57.
  16. ^ a b Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 38.
  17. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "R. Tait McKenzie Resigns". Associated Press in the Christian Science Monitor. May 25, 1931. Retrieved 2010-11-23. "Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, eminent sculptor and director of the department of physical education at the University of Pennsylvania since 1904, has announced his resignation from the college faculty. The resignation, effective next month, was made, Dr. McKenzie said, so that he could devote all his time to sculpture, in which field he is internationally known. ..." 
  19. ^ Joseph Hanaway and Richarrd L. Cruess, McGill Medicine – 1885 to 1936 (McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1996), 56.
  20. ^ a b "Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, Sculptor, Teacher. Physical Education Director at Pennsylvania University Dies Suddenly at 70. Army Physician in War. Served British Forces, Later Designing Soldier. Memorials. Statues Widely Known Authority on Physical Culture Designed Noted Memorials". New York Times. April 29, 1938. Retrieved 2010-11-23. "Dr. R. Fait McKenzie, sculptor, physician and J. William Wright research professor of physical education at the University of Pennsylvania, died of heart disease tonight at his home here. He was 70 years old." 
  21. ^ Robert Tait McKenzie, 1867-1938 (http://www.scouters.us/RTaitMcKenzie.html).
  22. ^ a b c Major James Farquharson Leys, “The Life of a Remarkable Man,” The Canadian Army Journal (January 1955), 102.
  23. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 90.
  24. ^ Major James Farquharson Leys, “The Life of a Remarkable Man,” The Canadian Army Journal (January 1955), 102-103.
  25. ^ Biography
  26. ^ a b Frank Cosentino, Almonte’s Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 117.
  27. ^ Frank Cosentino, Almonte’s Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 147.
  28. ^ Frank Cosentino, Almonte’s Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 148.
  29. ^ Frank Cosentino, Almonte’s Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 148.
  30. ^ Frank Cosentino, Almonte’s Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 148.
  31. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 142.
  32. ^ http://www.mvc.on.ca/conservation-areas/mill-of-kintail/22-dr-robert-tait-mckenzie
  33. ^ Frank Cosentino, Almonte’s Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 159.
  34. ^ Frank Cosentino, Almonte’s Brothers of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith (General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996), 163.
  35. ^ Jean S. McGill, The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie (Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980), 197.
  36. ^ Joseph Hanaway and Richarrd L. Cruess, McGill Medicine – 1885 to 1936 (McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1996), 601.
  37. ^ Reverend George Whitefield from SIRIS.
  38. ^ Bust of General John Grubb Parke from SIRIS.
  39. ^ Bust of Governor Andrew G. Curtin from SIRIS.
  40. ^ World Wars Monument from SIRIS.
  41. ^ Highlander Monument from SIRIS.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cosentino, Frank. Almonte's Brother's of the Wind: R. Tait McKenzie and James Naismith. General Store Publishing House: Burnstown, 1996.
  • Fraquharson Leys, James, Major. "The Life of a Remarkable Man." The Canadian Army Journal. January 1955.
  • Goode, James M. The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. 1974
  • Hanaway, Joseph and Richard L. Cruess. McGill Medicine - 1885 to 1936. McGill-Queen's University Press: Montreal, 1996.
  • Hussey, Christopher, Tait McKenzie: A Sculptor of Youth, J.B.Lippencott Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1930
  • Kozar, Andrew J., R. Tait Mckenzie: The Sculptor of Athletes, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1975
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Annotated Inventory of Outdoor Sculpture in Washtenaw County, 1989
  • McGill, Jean S. The Joy of Effort: A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie. Clay Publishing Co.: Oshawa, 1980.
  • Opitz, Glenn B, Editor, Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, Apollo Book, Poughkeepsie NY, 1986
  • Proske, Beatrice Gilman, Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture, Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, 1968
  • Rogers, Peter, Gilwell Park, The Scout Association, London, England, 1998.

External links[edit]