Editor's note: The following article was reprinted in Resource Library on February 12, 2009 with permission of the author and Brookgreen Gardens. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, please contact Brookgreen Gardens directly at P.O. Box 3368, Pawleys Island, SC 29585 ot at:



 

Sculpture from Brookgreen Gardens

by Robin R. Salmon

 

Sculpture as a fine art is a relatively young concept in America. Although utilitarian sculpture such as carved signs and figureheads for ships were created from the time of the nation's infancy, the idea of three-dimensional art having less functional purposes did not arise until the early nineteenth century. Once the idea developed, artists began creating works for our nation's monuments, gardens, private estates and individual patrons. The neoclassical sculptors of the mid-nineteenth century adhered to the principles of classicism, yet they utilized subject matter that was uniquely American.

The rise of naturalism in sculpture involved the accurate presentation of a subject, including the pose, costume and surface texture, although it also meant the decline of the romantic idealized form in favor of the banal. Yet, gradually, these figures took on increased significance, both in scale and complexity of composition, heralding the beginning of heroic realism and the integration of sculpture and architecture. At the same time there began the rise of bronze as the medium of choice, a change from the widespread use of marble and plaster that occurred in the first half of the nineteenth century.

This activity reached its zenith in the late nineteenth century with the advent of the Gilded Age at the height of American industrialism. Expositions around the turn of the century, beginning with the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, promoted the City Beautiful movement, a return to the principles of classicism in building and landscape design. The need for sculptural ornamentation, fountains and focal points lent itself readily to the movement and fostered a new generation of sculptors working in collaboration with architects and landscape designers.

The spate of millionaires created by rapid technological innovations and the rise of American financial empires produced opportunities for these artists to ornament country retreats and city mansions in accordance with the owners' economic status. Garden sculpture as a specific type of art in America sprang from these beginnings. The new-found wealth of these patrons also enabled sculptors and architects to reflect the material glory of a prosperous nation through grand public monuments and buildings commemorating benefactors and heroes.

European art schools, such as the École des Beaux-Arts at Paris, provided the training for practitioners of the beaux-arts style during the American Renaissance from 1876 to 1915. The evolution from Beaux-Arts to Academicism occurred in a smooth transition at the turn of the century. Proponents of Academicism held the same beliefs as the Beaux-Arts artists, however, they worked on a smaller scale, emphasizing beautiful and genteel subjects. This shift in emphasis brought about more personal themes such as the innocence of childhood and the joys of motherhood which appealed to a wider audience. At the same time, romanticized images of the American West were being recorded in sculpture of animals, Indians and cowboys.

In 1930, with the acquisition of four once splendid rice plantations on the South Carolina coast, Archer M. Huntington and his wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington, undertook to build the first public sculpture gardens in America and one of the largest and most significant collections of sculpture.

Archer Huntington was an industrialist, heir to a railroad and shipping fortune, who used his wealth in a manner that set new standards for philanthropy. The founder of several museums and an avid collector of everything from antiquities to contemporary American art, he was a renaissance man, in the truest sense of the term, quietly making his mark in the cultural explosion of the American renaissance.

Huntington established funds for needy artists and sponsored major group exhibitions under the auspices of the National Sculpture Society. He also promoted individual artists such as Russian-born sculptor Paul Troubetzkoy, and Spanish painters Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida and Ignacio Zuloaga, giving them commissions and organizing exhibitions of their work.

Personally interested in poetry and literature, Huntington supported scholarly endeavors including the endowment of the chair of poetry at the Library of Congress. He was himself a respected academician through his critical edition and translation of the twelfth-century epic Poema del Cid, which today remains a standard reference.

The Hispanic Society of America, a museum and library founded by him in New York City in 1904, was devoted to the art and literature of Spain. Its collection was formed by adhering to the principle of acquiring only from sources outside of Spain, rather than stripping the country of its treasures. The Mariners Museum in Newport News, Virginia, founded by him in 1930, collects and exhibits objects relating to the uses and history of the sea. Huntington was actively involved with many other prestigious institutions including the American Numismatic Society, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Academy of Design.

Although she became a renowned sculptor, Anna Vaughn Hyatt first intended to make a career in music, devoting daily hours of study and practice to the violin. Her older sister, Harriett, had studied sculpture with Henry Hudson Kitson in Boston. While watching her at work, Anna became attracted to the possibilities of form and motion in sculpture.

The daughter of a scientist who was a pioneer marine biologist and paleontologist, Anna developed an early fascination with animals and a keen power of observation. Under her father's tutelage, she became proficient in animal anatomy, enabling her to make sculpture of animals her specialty, particularly depictions of her favorite animal, the horse. Her upbringing in Victorian-era Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at the family's sea farm, near Annisquam on Cape Ann, instilled values of thriftiness and discipline that she never cast aside.

By the time she was thirty-six in 1912, Anna Hyatt was earning $50,000 a year with her primarily self-taught sculptural talent -- an accomplishment she shared with only a few other artists. Joan of Arc not only made her reputation as a sculptor of note, but also attained historical eminence as the first equestrian monument of a woman by a woman, and as the first monument that depicted Joan with authentic arms and armor.

She continued to create the monuments and animal sculpture for which she was acclaimed, even after her marriage at the age of forty-seven to Archer Huntington, one of the wealthiest men in America. This union of kindred spirits fostered a beneficence that reached scores of museums, arts organizations and institutions of higher learning around the world.

The Huntington's intentions for what became known as Brookgreen Gardens, a 350-acre public sculpture garden set within a 9,000 acre tract on the South Carolina coast, were well defined from the outset. They did not collect purely for their own pleasure, as did other members of wealthy society. From the beginning, they determined their sculpture collection would be available to the public. It would include only figurative works by American sculptors that could be effectively exhibited out-of-doors in the gardens Anna Huntington was designing on the former plantation grounds of Brookgreen.

Through their lifetimes, the Huntingtons added to the collection and expanded the display. Archer Huntington proclaimed it "a quiet joining of hands between science and art" that had as its object the presentation of the natural life of a given district as a museum. Huntington added in a statement written at the founding of Brookgreen Gardens in 1931, "as it is a garden, and gardens have from early times been rightly embellished by the art of the sculptor, that principle has found expression in American creative art.... At first the garden was intended to contain the sculpture of Anna Hyatt Huntington. This has gradually found extension in an outline collection representative of the history of American sculpture, from the nineteenth century, which finds its natural setting out of doors."

After their deaths (Archer Huntington in 1955 and Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1973), the Board of Trustees of Brookgreen Gardens continued to expand the collection while adhering to the founders' focus on figurative works by American sculptors. The result of this sixty-six-year tradition is the largest and finest collection of its type anywhere -- some 700 works represent virtually every major American sculptor. Brookgreen Gardens is today a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its significance in the history of American art.

Throughout the years, none of the works within the Brookgreen collection had ever left its setting within the gardens. Moreover, until last year, the by-laws of the institution prohibited the removal of any piece for loan to another museum. New leadership within the board and staff realized that the time was at hand to enhance the exhibition methods on site for this singular and extraordinary collection, and to make it more readily available to a national audience. Thus the planning began for the first temporary exhibition in the institution's history: American Masters: Sculpture from Brookgreen Gardens.

Forty-two of the most important works in the collection were gathered from their traditional garden settings and placed into the newly renovated, state-of-the-art galleries of the Callie and John Rainey Sculpture Pavilion. The pavilion includes two gallery spaces: the Joseph Veach Noble Gallery and the Carl Paul Jennewein Gallery, both named in honor of former chairmen of the Brookgreen Gardens Board of Trustees.

The 175-year-period covered by American Masters: Sculpture from Brookgreen Gardens includes objects by the foremost sculptors in American history. Achievement is the core of the exhibition. The exhibition presents not only the work of those artists who are considered masters, but sculptures that are their masterworks. Each sculpture presents elements of the genius of its creator: artistic concerns, inspiration or the ways in which cultural, social and political influences of the time are depicted. Aside from presenting obvious achievement in sculpture, the works chosen for the exhibition reflect the artists' personalities and preferences.

Horatio Greenough was the first native-born American to devote his professional life to creating sculpture. As such, he is often referred to as the first American sculptor, although there were others who preceded him. The romantic painter, Washington Allston, whose birthplace was Brookgreen Plantation in South Carolina, provided inspiration for the budding artist. Allston also gave him an introduction to artistic theory while Greenough studied the classics and anatomy at Harvard. Allston convinced Greenough that his artistic development could only continue in Italy, and he went to Rome in 1825. Greenough stayed in Rome for two years, following a grueling regimen of study and work, until illness forced a return to America.

The small head entitled Bacchus was Greenough's first attempt at stone carving. Created at the age of fourteen, Bacchus was presumed lost after Greenough gave it to Paul Trapier, a Harvard classmate from Charleston, South Carolina, in whose family it remained for more than 170 years. Although unfinished and reflecting the technique of an amateur, the work has charm and merit. Greenough's use of compact design is a result of the small size of the original marble block. The inspiration for Bacchus is unconfirmed; however, it probably came from an engraving Greenough viewed at the Boston Athenaeum.

The death of his father forced Thomas Ball to leave school and to find work to support the family. After taking a maintenance job at the New England Museum in Boston, an early interest in art that had been fostered by his father was rekindled. Ball began to copy the portraits displayed in the museum and soon opened his own business as a portrait painter and miniaturist.

In 1854, Ball relocated to Italy to make sculpture a career, eventually returning for an eight-year period to Boston. Like many artists of his time, Ball was best known for realistic, yet unpretentious, portraits and monuments. Perhaps the most important of these were the heroic statue of Washington on horseback for the Public Gardens in Boston and a statuette of Henry Clay.

In addition to his public monuments and portraits, Ball created a few ideal works. One of these, Love's Memories, a carving of a sweetly pensive cupid with crossed legs, seated upon an Ionic capital, draws upon Victorian sentiment. This work was done about the same time as Ball's Emancipation Group or Freedman's Memorial, a sculpture praised for its literal naturalism. The monument of Abraham Lincoln and a freed slave was placed at Washington, D.C., in 1876. By that time, Daniel Chester French had entered Ball's Italian studio as a pupil and assistant.

The embodiment of universal ideas in art was George Grey Barnard's driving force. Inspired by the work of Michelangelo and Rodin, he embued his sculpture with passion and intensity. Depictions of the human figure, both beautiful and powerful, were his forte. Barnard's concern with the play of light upon the surface of his objects resulted in figures having a dream-like quality of dark and shadow, luminescence and purity.

A twelve-year period in Paris (1883 - 1895), provided Barnard with an opportunity to focus totally upon his work and perfect his almost mystical vision of art and life. In 1894, at the Paris Salon, his sculpture was publicly exhibited for the first time and met with critical acclaim.

An example of his genius is Maidenhood, a serene figure that projects great energy. Barnard wrote to Archer Huntington, "This morning a clip came showing the Maidenhood in your Carolina gardens. I am happy to know you adopted the orphan. I finished that marble in a way I finished no other flesh." This is the only example of the full sculpture. A head in marble, carved after the figure was completed, is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. According to Barnard, the pose -- a candid one taken by the model at rest -- was as faithful an interpretation of the living model as he could create. He described the work as being "all nature in divine balance."

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was a major artistic influence in late nineteenth-century America. His innovative composition and inspired technique brought him acclaim and success. As a creator and mentor, Saint-Gaudens presided over the rise of American sculpture and promoted its advancement.

During his student days in New York City at the Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design school, an apprenticeship with a cameo cutter provided a source of income. At the age of nineteen Saint-Gaudens went to Paris, where he studied with Jouffroy and became associated with Falguière and Mercié. A fascination with the Renaissance led him to Rome, where he studied the art and techniques that would establish his future eminence in relief sculpture and medallic art.

Upon returning to New York, in 1875, he established a studio and developed a working relationship with the painter John LaFarge and the architect Stanford White. The collaboration led to several works, including Saint-Gaudens's first major commission, a statue of Admiral Farragut for Madison Square in New York City. His innovative design and meticulous craftsmanship set new standards for excellence in bas-relief and monumental sculpture. Saint-Gaudens's fertile imagination expressed itself in sculpture that combined a spiritual quality and romantic interpretation, marking a break with Neoclassicism and the beginning of a new American style.

The Puritan, first done in 1887 to commemorate Deacon Samuel Chapin, a founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, is a good example of Saint-Gaudens's groundbreaking work. He remodeled his initial composition, rearranging and repeating the folds of the cloak, and placing the figure in different positions, until he was satisfied with the design. The individuality of The Puritan was the result of the informal pose -- the stern figure boldly striding toward the viewer -- and the period costume with walking stick, that enhances the figure's personal quality.

Born to wealth and privilege, Gertrude Vanderbilt struggled with her family to be allowed to pursue sculpturing and with fellow artists to take her commitment to art seriously. After her marriage to Harry Payne Whitney in 1896, she studied with Hendrick Andersen and James Earle Fraser. Additional instruction was received at the Art Students League, and in Paris, where she entered the studio of Andrew O'Connor. From him she developed a fluid technique of modeling, with vaguely defined masses reminiscent of Rodin, O'Connor's teacher.

Caryatid is a sketch for one of the figures in a marble fountain presented to McGill University, Montreal, in 1931, as a symbol of international good will. The fountain was originally modeled for the Arlington Hotel in Washington, D.C. The three caryatid figures support a large basin upon their heads, forming a tripod-like pedestal over which water pours, spilling into a catch basin at their feet. A bronze version of the fountain is in Lima, Peru, and castings of the single Caryatid are also in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

With graceful line and composition, Carl Paul Jennewein exquisitely modeled characters from mythology and enchanting figures of children. After winning the Prix de Rome in 1918, his study at the American Academy reinforced his leaning toward pure outline and classical proportion.

Upon his return to New York in 1921, Jennewein established his own studio and began to receive commissions for large-scale monuments and architectural sculpture. Through his commission for mythological figures on the west pediment of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, completed in 1932, Jennewein was responsible for reviving an interest in polychromy in sculpture. With the architect Charles Louis Borie, he traveled through Greece to study the ancient technique and its use in architecture. Then, with the assistance of the ceramist Leon Solon, Jennewein developed a method that could replicate vivid colors on terracotta figures.

Jennewein's female nudes, in particular, bear the unmistakable mark of his talent. The Greek Dance, one of his most popular small bronzes, was modeled at Rome in 1926, during the time Jennewein was experimenting with polychromy. Portions of the drapery and head scarf of this figure were originally tinted reddish-orange on the surface of the silvered bronze in imitation of polychrome. Faint traces of color remain in the folds of the drapery.

With consummate sense of style, Paul Manship blazed a singular path in the history of American twentieth century sculpture. While his muse was found in ancient art, his technique was based on contoured shape and floating form. Using astrological and mythological symbolism, Manship created sculpture like no other, providing trendsetting examples for admirers to emulate.

After studying with Charles Grafly and working in the studios of Solon Borglum and Isidore Konti, Manship entered the American Academy at Rome in 1907. There he developed the penchant for archaism that became characteristic of his sculpture. Upon his return to New York in 1910, he gained recognition with a series of commissions for private estates. These early works were marked by an exuberant lightness of form. Subsequent pieces with less detail and simplified line acquired more solidity. This later style translated well into animal sculpture, including the decorative figures for the Paul Rainey Memorial Gate at the New York Zoological Society.

For the 1939 New York World's Fair, Manship's centerpiece was a huge sundial, Time and the Fates of Man, and the accompanying Moods of Time -- four dreamy figures representing Morning, Day, Evening, and Night. Manship's poetic imagination comes to the fore in the floating figure of Evening.

American figurative sculpture today is experiencing a renewed public and scholarly interest. American Masters responds to this interest with its selection of significant artists and landmark works ranging from 1819 to the present.


About the author

Robin Salmon is vice president for collections and curator of sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where she has been on staff since 1975. She holds degrees in history and art history from the University of South Carolina and is a graduate of the Museum Management Institute. She is currently the exhibitions advisor for the National Sculpture Society and has been on the editorial board of its publication, Sculpture Review. Ms. Salmon is a former chair of the Curator's Committee of the Southeastern Museums Conference, and she has been a research fellow of the Waccamaw Center for Historical and Cultural Studies at Coastal Carolina University.


Resource Library editor's note

The above text was reprinted in Resource Library on February 12, 2009 with permission of the author and Brookgreen Gardens, which was granted to TFAO on January 14, 2009.

This article, which appeared in the November 1996 issue of American Art Review, is adapted from content in the exhibition catalogue for American Masters: Sculpture from Brookgreen Gardens, which was on view at Brookgreen Gardens April 1996 - May 1998. The exhibition traveled to Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, Texas (June 12 - August 16, 1998); Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (January 16 - April 18, 1999); National Sculpture Society, New York City (May 10 - July 30, 1999); and Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida (September 5 - October 31, 1999). The catalogue can be purchased from the Brookgreen Gardens shop: http://www.brookgreen.org/shop.cfm.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Shana Herb Johannessen for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text.

 

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