The genesis of my interest in Anna Hyatt Huntington was (again) my great-great aunt, Ethel Fairmont Snyder Beebe. They lived near each other in Connecticut. Because of their physical proximity, my Aunt had few letters from Anna but letters among my aunt’s papers from others, notably those from sculptor Nancy Cox-McCormack, made occasional reference to Huntington, commenting on visits exchanged and Huntington’s grief upon the death of her husband. Letters from my aunt to Nancy Cox-McCormack that have been deposited in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College likewise speak of visits with the Huntingtons and attending exhibitions of her sculptures. One of the items in my aunt’s papers that especially piqued my interest in this sculptor was an article on her that was published in the October, 1961 issue of Connecticut Life. One of the illustrations for that article was a photograph of the then-85 year old sculptor atop a ten-foot platform, putting the finishing touches on one of her last monumental equestrian sculptures, The Torchbearers. I learned that this actually was her second representation of the concept of passing the torch of civilization. The first included two humans and a horse. The second was a single equestrian figure. In what turned out to be a curious connection between Huntington and my world, I discovered that she and her husband had donated one of the aluminum castings of the first treatment of The Torchbearers to Stevens Institute of Technology, where my father taught and where I grew up. Appropriately, it is installed outside the entrance to the college’s library.
In 2000, I made the decision to build on my minimal knowledge of the life and art of Anna Hyatt Huntington by writing a paper on her for a graduate Art History course I was taking entitled “Women, Art and Society”. According to multiple biographical sources, Huntington stands out as one of America’s foremost sculptors of the early 20th century. Traditional, naturally portrayed domestic and wild animals and heroic equestrian figures dominate her oeuvre. However, she was equally capable of sensitively portraying mythic figures. She and her philanthropist husband, Archer Milton Huntington (author, poet and heir to a vast railroad empire) endowed museums across America and created a public sculpture garden and wildlife refuge, Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. This visionary wildlife sanctuary, which is now designated a National Historic Landmark, consists of more than 10,000 acres, including a 300-acre sculpture garden that is the home for over 500 figurative sculptures by some 240 American artists, including Anna Hyatt Huntington.
As I researched the work of this eminent, female animalier (a sculptor of naturalistically modeled domestic and wild animals), I found myself especially drawn to her equestrian figures. There is an amusing, probably apocryphal story that appears in a biography by Myrna Eden (see bibliography) about her attraction to horses. It is credited to her sister Harriet, herself a sculptor. Harriet recounted that one of her earliest memories of Anna, then four or five, involved horses. Apparently the future sculptor of heroic equestrian figures ran from the house with her sketchpad and lay down in the street between the legs of a horse to observe how the legs supported the large animal and to sketch them from that perspective. Huntington’s ability to apply her understanding of equine anatomy and behavior to her art is notable. Whether one is looking at any of her more than fifteen horse sculptures, her equestrian figures of Joan of Arc, El Cid Campeador, or José Martí or one of her multiple versions of The Torchbearer(s), her powerful treatment of the horse is breathtaking. While some of her horse sculptures are relatively small in scale and lend themselves to inclusion in private or museum collections, many of her heroic equestrian sculptures are publicly installed, allowing for easy free visual access.
A SELECTION OF PUBLICLY INSTALLED EQUESTRIAN SCULPTURES BY ANNA HYATT HUNTINGTON
Joan of Arc. There are five heroic castings of this equestrian figure installed as follows:
(Additionally, a reduced casting is among the Huntington sculptures at Brookgreen Gardens.)
El Cid Campeador
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS ABOUT ANNA HYATT HUNTINGTON
Cook, Doris E. Woman Sculptor: Anna Hyatt Huntington (187601973).
Hartford, CN: Doris Cook 1976.
Eden, Myrna G. Energy and Individuality in the Art of Anna Hyatt Huntington,
Sculptor, and Amy Beach, Composer. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1987.
Evans, Cerinda W. Anna Hyatt Huntington. Illustrated with Photographs by
William T. Radcliffe. Newport News, Virginia: The Mariners Museum, 1965.
Parkes, Kineton. “An American Sculptress of Animals: Anna Hyatt Huntington.”
Apollo (1932): 61-66.
Potter-Hennessey, Pamela. “Huntington, Anna Vaughn Huntington.” Dictionary
of Women Artists”. Ed. Delia Gaze. London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers,
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