Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973)
The American artist Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington was one of the great American sculptors of horses and animals. Active in the first half of the 20th century, she was particularly known for her equine statues. Her most famous sculptures include Reaching Jaguar (1906, Private Collection), the equestrian statue of Joan of Arc (1910, Riverside Drive at 93rd Street, New York), Fighting Stallions (1950, aluminium, Sculpture Garden, S. Carolina), and The Torch Bearers (1955, Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid).
Along with her husband, Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955), she was responsible for founding twenty museums, several wildlife preserves, as well as America's first sculptural garden, the Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. Her contribution to American art in general and naturalistic sculpture in particular, is immense.
EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
MODERN PLASTIC ARTISTS
Huntington was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1876. Her father was a professor of Paleontology and Zoology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for many years and latterly at the Boston University until his death in 1902. He also acted as curator at the Boston Society of Natural History. With this background, it was no surprise that Huntington gained a keen interest and knowledge in the physical anatomy and behaviour of animals. Before she even knew how to read, she could distinguish over a hundred thoroughbred horses from pictures alone. She spent much of her youth sketching and recording animals in movement.
Her sister Harriet Hyatt was a figurative and portrait sculptor, and one day asked Anna for assistance in modelling a clay figure of a boy and a great Dane. Huntington's modelling was so good that it was accepted for an exhibition at one of the national art societies. This encouraged Anna to take her studies in plastic art more seriously. She began to help her sister regularly, focusing on animal portraits.
In 1900 Huntington held her first serious exhibition, consisting of 40 animal sculptures, at the Boston Arts Club. She also studied under the Boston portrait sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson. That same year she produced her first important sculpture, Two Great Danes, a commission from a Boston business man.
New York and Paris
On the death of her father and the marriage of her sister in 1902, Huntington moved to New York to pursue her art career. While in New York she attended the Art Students League and studied under the sculptors Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941), George Grey Barnard (1863-1938), and Hermon MacNeil. But Huntington never really took to formal education, preferring to work alone and study from observation. She spent hundreds of hours at the Bronx Zoo, and was particularly inspired by the Zoo's prize jaguar. In 1906 she produced a beautiful sculpture, based on these observations, entitled Reaching Jaguar (private collection). This became one of her first major works. In 1907 she moved to France, working on small pieces which she exhibited at the 1908 Paris Salon. In 1908 she moved to Naples to work on a colossal lion sculpture for a school in Dayton Ohio. In 1909 she returned to France to work on her first major equestrian statue.
Joan of Arc Equestrian Statue
For years Huntington had wanted to create a life-size equestrian statue of Joan of Arc. In 1909 she devoted herself entirely to the task. Within four months, working 10 hours days and with three and a half tons of clay, she completed her model. The Paris Salon of 1910 gave the statue an honorable mention, which led to the City of New York commissioning a bronze version to mark the saint's 500th anniversary (situated on Riverside Drive at 93rd Street, New York). Hereafter, Huntington received a number of honours and commissions, and her fame rose to new heights. Indeed, by 1915, she was one of the highest earning female entrepreneurs in America. In 1916 she won the Rodin Gold Medal from the Plastics Club in Philadelphia and became an associate member of the National Academy of Design.
Return to America
During World War I, Huntington returned to her family home in Massachusetts, where she devoted herself primarily to farming. A few years later she returned to New York to continue her career as an artist. She carved another standing sculpture of Joan of Arc and two sculptures of the Greek Goddess Diana. In 1922 she was awarded the Saltus Gold Medal from the National Academy of Design for one of her Diana Statues and around the same time she received the Legion of Honour from France for her equestrian statue of Joan of Arc.
Marriage to Archer Huntington
At the age of 47, Huntington met and married Archer Milton Huntington, the philanthropist and railroad heir. Her new husband was already highly involved in the arts - he was a founder of several museums - but it was his love of Spanish Culture that would have the greatest impact on Huntington's choice of future work. In 1927, on return from her honeymoon, she started work on her second major equestrian sculpture, that of El Cid Campeador, the medieval Spanish Warrior. The 7-metre high bronze statue exists in five versions, 3 of which are in America: California Palace of the Legion of Honour, San Francisco; Balboa Park, San Diego; and the Hispanic Society of America, New York City. The other two versions are in Spain: at the Plaza de Espana, Valencia, and Jardines del Prado de San Sebastian, Seville. From the mid 1920s onwards, Anna's productivity reduced as she constantly battled with tuberculosis, but she still received public acclaim for her works including Fighting Bulls and a number of pieces she produced for the grounds of New York's Hispanic Society of America.
In 1930 she won a Gold Medal from the American Academy of Arts and an honorary Doctor of Arts from Syracuse University in 1932. Archer was very proud of his wife's works, and they became a popular couple on New York's art and museum circuits. Their goal was to produce a permanent foundation for American art, and among their many gifts to the state was a 15,000 acre forest near Newcomb New York. Additionally, they founded and developed Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina which today contains one of the best collections of late 19th century and early 20th century sculptures. It was the first garden in America to be devoted exclusively to statuary.
Other Equestrian Monuments
Huntington's other famous equestrian statues include:
Jose Martim (c. 1950, Central Park,
Fighting Stallions (1950, Hyatt
Huntingdon Sculpture Garden)
Andrew Jackson: Boy of The Waxhaws
(1967, Andrew Jackson State Park)
General Israel Putnam (Putnam Memorial
Park, Redding, Connecticut)
Huntington was increasingly distressed by popular moves towards modern abstract art, to what she called "an overwhelming flood of degenerate trash drowning sincere and conservative workers in all the arts." Despite this, she continued to work and win awards well into her eighties. However, towards the end of her life, she was convinced she had outlived her moment and that her style of sculpture had been superseded. She died in 1973. Today her small bronze statues and larger scale works can be found in museums all around the world. She was and continues to remain an inspiration to other female artists.
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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCULPTURE