Anna Hyatt Huntington

views updated Jun 27 2018

Anna Hyatt Huntington

A prolific and innovative American sculptor, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) was one of the masters of naturalistic animal sculpture. Particularly noted for her equestrian statues, Huntington, along with her husband, helped found nearly 20 museums and wildlife preserves as well as America's first sculpture garden, Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.

The youngest of three children, Huntington was born Anna Vaughn Hyatt on March 10, 1876, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to noted paleontologist Alpheus Hyatt and amateur landscape artist Aduella Beebe Hyatt. From an early age, Huntington followed the examples of her parents by acquiring both an extensive knowledge of the anatomy and behavior of animals and an enthusiasm for drawing. As a child at her family's summer home, Seven Acres, in Cape Cod and at her brother's farm, Porto Bello, in rural Maryland, Huntington developed an affection for horses; as Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein related in American Women Artists, "[s]earching for her once at dinnertime, her family found her lying in a field, nose to nose with a horse, watching the action of its jaw muscles as it chewed on a cud of grass." During her childhood sojourns in the countryside, Huntington also made her first clay models of horses, dogs, and other domestic animals.

Although Huntington was fascinated by the animal world, she initially entered a private school in Cambridge to study the violin and spent several years training to become a professional concert violinist. At the age of 19, while suffering from an illness—possibly nervous exhaustion— Huntington assisted her sister, Harriet Hyatt (Mayor), repair the broken foot on a sculpture the elder had produced. Pleased with the results, the elder Hyatt sister asked her to collaborate on a sculpture which included the family dog; in Energy and Individuality in the Art of Anna Huntington, Sculptor, and Amy Beach, Composer, Myrna Eden reported that "the sculpture group was accepted for exhibition by one of the national art societies, and purchased." Having found both enjoyment and success in her first professional sculpture, Huntington turned away from the violin to study under Boston portrait sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson. Her first one-woman show was held at the Boston Arts Club. It consisted of 40 animal sculptures. Her original plan was to open an art school. However, the death of her father and marriage of her sister to Alfred Mayor changed these early plans. Huntington left Massachusetts for New York City.

Perfected Her Art

In New York, Huntington continued her frequently self-directed studies. She attended the Art Students League, where she studied under three sculptors: George Grey Barnard, Hermon MacNeil, and Gutzon Borglum, the designer of Mount Rushmore. Preferring to work independently, Huntington left formal instruction in favor of direct observation. Over the next few years, she spent much of her time at the Bronx Zoo. As Wayne Craven explained in Sculpture in America, "[Huntington] became fascinated with the beauty found in the great cats of the New York zoo, particularly a prize jaguar called Senor Lopez." The figures modeled from these personal observations, including the 1902 equestrian work Winter Noon and the 1906 sculpture Reaching Jaguar, based on Senor Lopez, became Huntington's first major works.

During this period, Huntington shared several studios with other young female artists and musicians; one of these was Abastenia St. Leger Eberle, another up-and-coming sculptor. Eden related that: "Anna and Abastenia formed an artistic partnership which led them to collaborate on at least two statues: Men and Bull, awarded a bronze medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, and Boy and Goat Playing, exhibited during the spring of 1905 in the gallery of the Society of American Artists." The two sculptors worked together for about two years before following their individual paths, Huntington preferring a more traditional style and Eberle favoring the more modern Ash Can style.

First Major Commissions

In American Women Sculptors, Rubinstein quoted Huntington as saying, "One ought to be perfectly independent in one's work and above outside influence … before going abroad." By 1907, Huntington felt confident enough in her abilities to travel to Europe. Choosing to forgo academic study in order to pursue her craft independently, Huntington took a studio in Auvers-sur-Oise where she modeled two more jaguars that were exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1908. In the autumn of 1908, Huntington left France for Naples, Italy, to work on a colossal lion commissioned by a high school in Dayton, Ohio. Huntington returned to the United States for the dedication ceremonies, but went back to France about a year later to commence modeling another grand-scale piece.

For years, Huntington had wanted to produce a life-sized equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, and she now devoted herself entirely to this goal. Rubinstein described this process in American Women Sculptors: "The sculptor … immersed herself in research about the saint. She traveled to Rouen and other places [Joan] had lived … searched the streets of Paris for the right kind of horse and … brought it to her studio… . Shutting herself in her studio and working ten hours a day, she massed three and half tons of clay, built the armature, and carried out the work in four months." This early model garnered an honorable mention at the Paris Salon of 1910, and led to Huntington's being offered a commission by the City of New York to produce the model in bronze to honor the saint's 500th birthday. A replica of this bronze was erected in Blois, France, and the French government made Huntington a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Throughout this period, Huntington received several other commissions and honors, raising her career to new heights. In 1912, she was one of only 12 women in the U.S. making at least $50,000 a year; in 1915, she received the Purple Rosette from the French government; and in 1916, she won the Rodin Gold Medal from the Plastics Club of Philadelphia as well as becoming an associate of the National Academy of Design.

Marriage to Archer Huntington

Following a brief withdrawal to Cape Cod during World War I, Huntington returned to New York City to take up new works, including a standing Joan of Arc and two sculptures depicting the Greek goddess Diana. One of these, Diana of the Chase, won the National Academy of Design's Saltus Award in 1922. Around this time, Huntington was working with railroad heir and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington on an upcoming Hispanic Society sculpture exhibition. The two married quietly—and suddenly—in Huntington's studio on her 47th birthday in 1923. According to American Women Sculptors, "[b]oth were tall, imposing figures; they shared cultural interests and a sense of noblesse oblige toward their community. It was said of Archer Huntington that wherever he put his foot down, a museum sprang up." The couple took an extended honeymoon; following their return to New York, Huntington took on several new commissions, including her second major equestrian work, El Cid Campeador, in honor of the medieval Spanish warrior.

From the mid-1920s on, Huntington battled tuberculosis, reducing her output dramatically. Most of Huntington's works during this time were inspired by her husband's fascination with Spanish culture; she produced a number of pieces for the New York grounds of the Hispanic Society of America, founded by her husband. In spite of decreased production, Huntington continued to enjoy public recognition, as detailed in Sculpture in America: "[Huntington's] Fighting Bulls received the Shaw Prize at the National Academy [of Design] show in 1928, and the following year she received the Grand Cross of Alfonso XII from the Spanish government; in 1930 she won the Gold Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and two years later Syracuse University gave her an honorary Doctor of Arts degree in recognition of her work." Huntington was also made an Officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1933.

Founded Brookgreen Gardens

In 1930, the Huntingtons purchased approximately 7,000 acres of former plantation land in the coastal region ofSouth Carolina to provide a better winter environment for Huntington's illness. The milder climate permitted Huntington to resume work, and the estate, Brookgreen Gardens, became the first modern sculpture garden when the grounds were opened to the public in 1932. The Brookgreen collection includes many works Huntington completed while living at Atalaya, the Huntingtons' winter home on the estate, including several cast in aluminum—some of the earliest sculptures to use that medium. Brookgreen also features figures by many other sculptors of the era. A Guide to the Sculpture Parks and Gardens of America commented that, "[d]uring the Depression years of the 1930s, the Huntingtons' acquisitions were a boon to struggling artists; in its first six years, the Brookgreen added 197 art works."

A Return to Health and Productivity

After her recovery from tuberculosis, Huntington resumed work vigorously. In 1936, the American Academy of Arts and Letters held a retrospective exhibition of 171 of Huntington's works in New York. The following year, she received the Pennsylvania Academy's Widener Gold Medal for Greyhounds Playing. According to Energy and Individuality in the Art of Anna Huntington, Sculptor, and Amy Beach, Composer, "[t]hat same year she had her first solo exhibition on the West Coast at the Palace of the Legion of Honor at San Francisco." Huntington then arranged for 65 pieces from her 1936 New York exhibition to tour the United States through 1938 and 1939.

In the late 1930s, the Huntingtons donated their Fifth Avenue townhouse to the National Academy of Design and left for a Haverstraw, New York, estate called Rocas. Huntington here acquired her own zoo featuring monkeys, bears, wolves, and wild boars for use in continued animal modeling. After a few years, the Huntingtons donated this estate and zoo to the state of New York and moved to a large farm, named Stanerigg in honor of the Huntingtons' Scottish deerhounds, in Redding, Connecticut. Huntington spent the duration of World War II on both her art and on wartime support, including the canning of produce from Victory Gardens and the sponsorship of a chapter of the Red Cross in her home at Stanerigg. Notable pieces dating from this era include two bas-reliefs at New York's Hispanic Society Museum, Don Quixote and Boabdil.

Later Accomplishments and a Lasting Body of Work

With the advent of the 1950s, modern, abstract sculpture began to replace Huntington's more traditional, academic style, much to the artist's dismay. Huntington was quoted in American Women Sculptors as referring to modernism "as an overwhelming flood of degenerate trash drowning sincere and conservative workers in all the arts." Her husband became ill and Huntington spent much of her time caring for him. However, she continued to work, producing even large pieces such as the equestrian Lady Godiva for an art association in Indiana and a group of large figures entitled The Torch Bearers, installed in Madrid in 1955.

Following Archer Huntington's death, Huntington returned to full-time art work, despite being in her 80s. Between 1959 and 1966, she completed five more equestrian statues, including one of the late 19th century writer and activist José Martí; one of a young Abraham Lincoln; and one of a young Andrew Jackson. On Huntington's 90th birthday in 1966 she was still working, reportedly on a bust of the composer Charles Ives.

Around the end of the 1960s, Huntington finally retired from creative work. She died on October 4, 1973, in Redding, Connecticut, following a series of strokes. Active over a period of 70 years, Huntington is today recognized as one of America's finest animal sculptors, whose naturalistic works helped to bridge the gap between the traditional styles of the 1800s and the abstract styles of the mid-20th century. Her prominence also enabled other female artists to succeed. Her innovations in technique and display, as exhibited through her aluminum statues in Brookgreen Gardens, guarantee her place in the annals of art history.


Carr, James F., Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptor and Engravers, James F. Carr, 1965.

Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America from the Colonial Period to the Present, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968.

Eden, Myrna G., Energy and Individuality in the Art of Anna Huntington, Sculptor and Amy Beach, Composer, Scarecrow Press, 1987.

Falk, Peter Hastings, ed., Who Was Who in American Art: 1564-1975, Sound View Press, 1999.

Gaze, Delia, ed., Dictionary of Women Artists, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Heller, Nancy G., Women Artists: An Illustrated History, Abbeville Press, 1987.

McCarthy, Jane and Laurily K. Epstein, A Guide to the Sculpture Parks and Gardens of America, Michael Kesend Publishing, Ltd., 1996.

National Museum of Woman in the Arts, Harry N. Abrams, 1987.

Rubinstein, Charlotte Streifer, American Women Artists from Early Indian Times to the Present, Avon, 1982.

—, American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions, G.K. Hall & Co., 1990.

Whitney Museum of American Art, 200 Years of American Sculpture, David R. Godine, 1976.


Encyclopedia Brittanica Online, "Hyatt, Anna Vaughn," (March 9, 2003).

Macy, L., ed., "The Grove Dictionary of Art Online: Hyatt Huntington, Anna," (March 9, 2003). □

Hyatt, Alpheus

views updated May 14 2018

Hyatt, Alpheus

(b. Washington, D. C., 5 April 1838; d. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 15 January 1902)

invertebrate paleontology, zoology.

Alpheus Hyatt, an influential evolutionist and co-founder of the neo-Lamarckian theory, was the descendant of an old Maryland family. After a year at Yale, he went to Harvard in 1858 to study with Louis Agassiz. He graduated from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard in 1862. He married Ardella Beebe (1867) and after serving in the Union army during the Civil War became professor of zoology and paleontology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a position he held until 1888. In 1877 he was appointed professor of biology at Boston University and remained there until his death. He became custodian in 1870 and curator in 1881 of the Boston Society of Natural History. In 1875 Hyatt was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He founded the marine laboratory at Annisquam, Massachusetts (later moved to Woods Hole), and was a co-founder of the American Society of Naturalists.

Although he was primarily a prolific specialist on the systematics and evolution of ammonoids (“Genesis of the Arietidae” [1889]) Hyatt also published extensive works on gastropods and bryozoans and wrote an important treatise on North American sponges (1877). He was working on the evolution and zoogeogrphy of Hawaiian tree snails at the time of his death. It is as an evolutionary theorist, however, that he is best known. He was among the gifted group of students who broke with their mentor Agassiz and embraced evolutionary theory soon after 1859.

Hyatt was not a Darwinian. He granted natural selection an executioner’s role in removing the unfit, but he did not see how it could create the fit. Moreover, he thought he could detect repeated patterns on directed change in the fossil record that could not be the result of adaptation to changing environments. He believed that evolution could lead to increasing complexity of organization only if variation were intrinsically directed toward advantageous states (rather than being random in direction, as the Darwinians thought).

To produce this variation, he accepted the Lamarckian postulate that organisms could pass on to their offspring the advantageous characters that they had acquired during their lifetimes. Hyatt and the vertebrate paleontologist E. D. Cope were the leading exponents of this so-called neo-Lamarckian school. They believed that most important new characters arose from the mechanical activity of animals themselves (for example, that the astragalus of eventoed ungulate animals developed from pressures of contact in sustained running) and that this is why structure is so well adapted (in an engineer’s sense) to function. Hyatt’s extended argument (1894) for the origin of the ammonites’ “impressed zone”—that it arose from pressures of contact with its own outer whorls—was surely the most influential case ever made for this belief.

It is often said that the neo-Lamarckians accepted only this side of Lamarckism, rejecting or ignoring Lamarck’s perfecting principle and his distinction between vertical progress up the ladder of life and horizontal side-branches as adaptations to specific environments (eyeless moles and long-necked giraffes). This interpretation is not correct. Both Hyatt and Cope distinguished progressive evolution, which they regarded as the addition of stages to an ancestral ontogeny, from specific alterations of existing ontogenies. The mechanism of addition, and therefore o evolutionary progress, is the principle of recapitulation. Cope and Hyatt both formulated this principle independently in 1866, the same year that Haeckel announced it in his Generelle Morphologie der Organismen. (While the evolutionary interpretation was new, the principle dates back to ancient Greek science.) The addition of new stages depends upon a “law of acceleration” that “makes room” for them by shortening ancestral ontogenies. The law of acceleration operates continuously to transfer the adult stages of ancestors to earlier and earlier steps of a descendant’s ontogeny (with new steps being added at the end of growth). Thus, the sequence of embryonic stages parallels the sequence of ancestral adults, and phylogeny can be read from ontogeny. Hyatt used this principle of recapitulation (often incau-tiously as an absolute a priori) to reconstruct the history of ammonoids.

But since it is not natural selection, what determines the sequence of new stages in phylogeny? In attempting to answer this question, Hyatt made his most imaginative and original contribution to evolutionary thought—his “old age” theory (see especially his 1880 work). Species, as individuals, have a determined cycle of youth, maturity, and old age leading to extinction. Early in its history, a species adds the vigorous features of its phyletic youth and prospers. Later it adds the degenerate features of its phyletic senescence (the incorporation of inadaptive states, an anti-Darwinian tenet) and eventually succumbs. This theory of “racial senescence” was fairly popular, especially among paleontologists, until the formulation in the 1930’s of the “modern synthesis” of evolutionary theory.


See “On the Parallelism Between the Different Stages of Life in the Individual and Those in the Entire Group of the Molluscous Order Tetrabranchiata,” in Memoirs of the Boston Society of Natural History, 1 (1866), 193-209; “Revision of the North American Poriferae,” ibid., 2 (1875-1877), 399-408, 481-554; “The Genesis of the Tertiary Species of Planorbis at Steinheim,” in Anniversary Memoirs of the Boston Society of Natural History (1880); “Genesis of the Arietidae,” in Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, 16 (1889); “Phylogeny of an Acquired Characteristic,” in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 32 (1894), 349-647.

An obituary notice by W. K. Brooks is in Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 6 (1909), 311-325.

Stephen Jay Gould