Cyrus Dallin considered his allegorical or “ideal” sculptures his proudest achievements. Allegorical sculptures try to find forms to express intangible qualities. Ideal sculptures aim to transcend their realistic appearance and historical costumes to exalt civic virtues values such as patriotism, heroism, liberty, and devotion.
Dallin’s allegorical statues project a naïve sincerity, in contrast to the more calculated expression of the Parisian Beaux-Arts style he studied and taught. Their earnest poses look overacted to us. But back in the day of the Cross of the Gold Speech and the Gettysburg Address, speakers relied on lung-powered oratory and big, dramatic gestures to reach the distant fringes of an audience.
Talking movies made these communications comic. Today, the virtual intimacy of modern electronic media mongrelizes commerce and theater. This fosters a cynicism that admirers of fine art must overcome to fully appreciate the virtues of Dallin’s allegories.