Monday, February 20, 2017

1876-1973: Anna Hyatt Huntington

Anna Hyatt Huntington was the most prominent woman sculptor of the first half of the 20th century.

During the first 2 decades of the century Anna became famous for her animal sculptures, which combine skillful naturalism with vivid emotional depth.

Later she started tackling equestrian statues, featuring a heroic figure riding a spirited horse.

She received critical acclaim at home and abroad, traveled widely, and won awards and commissions. She was active over a period of 70 years.

Background: Anna Hyatt was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the youngest of 3 children. Her father was a professor of paleontology and zoology, and his profession influenced Anna to specialize in animals. Her mother was an amateur landscape painter.

Training: She studied at the Art Students League of New York, and spent many hours doing animal studies in various zoos and circuses.

Career: In 1907, when she was 31, moved to Paris and set up a studio. There she modeled 2 jaguars that were exhibited at the Paris Salon.

The following year, Anna moved to Italy to work on a monumental sculpture commission, but she returned to France within a year or two.

Anna devoted herself to producing a life-sized equestrian statue of Joan of Arc. The model garnered an honorable mention at the Paris Salon of 1910 and led to her being offered a commission by the City of New York to reproduce it in bronze in honor of Saint Joan's five-hundredth birthday.

In 1920 Anna moved to New York and took on many large public commissions. She received the Legion of Honor from France that year, and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1922.

Around 1923 Anna was introduced to Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955), son of railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington, and heir to his vast fortune. Archer devoted himself to cultural pursuits and his dream of founding a museum. He developed a particular interest in Spain and traveled there extensively. He also became a respected scholar, whose most notable achievement was a translation and critical edition of the medieval epic, The Poem of the Cid. El Cid was a Spanish cultural hero.

Archer was seeking a sculptor to make a heroic equestrian statue like Joan of Arc for the courtyard of Audubon Terrace, a property in New York where he was developing a multi-purpose cultural institution called The Hispanic Society. The society commissioned Anna to create a statue of El Cid.

Anna Hyatt and Archer Huntington married in 1923.

In 1927, at the age of 41, Anna contracted tuberculosis.

In 1930, Archer and Anna purchased approximately 7,000 acres of former plantation land in the coastal region of South Carolina to provide a better winter environment for Huntington's illness. Anna and Archer turned the estate into a sculpture garden for the display of her works, and those of other traditional sculptors as well, called Brookgreen Gardens. When the grounds were opened to the public in 1932, it became the first modern sculpture garden.

In the 1940s, Anna did some relief sculptures for the Hispanic Society.

Anna was disgusted by the modern, abstract sculpture of the 1950s. She continued to have commissions for public works in a traditional, academic style.

Private life:

Anna Hyatt was a single career woman, aged 37, when she met Archer Huntington, aged 47, who had previously been married for over 25 years to an author.

When Archer and Anna first met, he said, “You look familiar.” Anna recognized him immediately and said, “Ah yes, the tall red-haired man. We’ve been riding the same train every morning.” Apparently they were fated to meet, and they were happily married for thirty-five years.

Anna characterized Archer as the ultimate sculptor's husband because he supported her work not only financially but emotionally as well as spiritually.

Archer died in 1955, when Anna was 79.

Anna lived to be 97.


Lion and Lioness, early 20th C.

Reaching Jaguar, 1907
Metropolitan / Jan's photo, 2012

Yawning Panther, 1917
Columbus / Jan's photo, 2012

Fawns Playing, 1936
Indianapolis / Jan's photo

Joan of Arc, 1915
Legion of Honor
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2010
Huntington made a model of this statue while she was studying in Paris, and submitted it to the Salon. Because it earned an Honorable Mention at the Paris Salon, she was commissioned to complete a monumental version for Riverside Drive in New York City. At the dedication in 1915, the French Ambassador awarded her the Legion of Honor, and later she was made a member of the Legion.

El Cid, c. 1915
Legion of Honor
Photo by Dan L. Smith

The Visionaries, c. 1931
Brookgreen / Jan's photo

The Young Diana, 1924
Brookgreen / Jan's photo, 2010

The Centaur Cheiron, 1936
Brookgreen / Jan's photo, 2010

A Female Centaur, 1936
Brookgreen / Jan's photo, 2010

Don Quixote, 1947
Brookgreen / Jan's photo, 2010

Fighting Stallions, 1950
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2010
Don Quixote, 1942
Limestone Relief
Hispanic Society of America, NYC
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2007

Boabdil, 1943
Limestone Relief
Hispanic Society of America, NYC
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2007