DescriptionANNA HYATT HUNTINGTON (American, 1876-1973)
Torch Bearers, 1955; cast in 1962
Bronze with natural verdigris patina
186 inches (472.4 cm) high
Inscribed on the base: a Hyatt Huntington/Stanerigg 1953 © / ROMAN BRONZE WORKS INC NY
PROPERTY FROM THE DISCOVERY MUSEUM AND PLANETARIUM, WITH PROCEEDS TO DIRECTLY BENEFIT SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS AND EXHIBITS
The Museum of Art, Science and Industry, Bridgeport, Connecticut, gift from the above, 1962.
M.G. Eden, Energy and Individuality in the Art of Anna Hyatt Huntington, Sculptor, and Amy Beach, Composer, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1987, p. 230-31;
J. Conner and K. Rosenkranz, Rediscoveries in American Sculpture, Austin, Texas, 1989, p, 77;
M.A. Bzdak, Public Sculpture in New Jersey: Monuments to Collective Identity, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1999, p. 143.
Anna Hyatt Huntington, acclaimed as one of the most successful female sculptor in American history, is renowned for her portrayal of animals. Her work, on large and small scale, can be found in the collections of over 250 museums, parks and public gardens worldwide. Conceived in 1955 and executed in 1962, Torch Bearer is one of only five known casts, and is the most important of Huntington's works to ever come to auction.
The daughter of Alpheus Hyatt, an eminent paleontologist and Harvard University professor, Huntington had the opportunity growing up to familiarize herself with all varieties of savage and domestic animals. Her sympathy for animals and understanding of their anatomy was fostered, first, by study with Henry Kitson in Boston, and then as a pupil at the Art Students League of New York City where she received instruction from Hermon Atkins MacNeil and criticism from Gutzon Borglum, a noted animal sculptor of the day. She rounded out her artistic education by modeling domestic animals on a farm at Porto Bello, Maryland, and the wild animals at the New York Zoological Park. "Animals," she said, "have many moods and to represent them is a joy."1 Huntington's ability to capture the essence of living creatures soon translated into small bronzes and commissions.
By 1907 Huntington was working steadily in France and Italy, and in 1910 she had already made the model for Joan of Arc, her earliest notable monument and the first heroic equestrian statue of a woman. The work, which depicts a slender, armor-clad Joan of Arc astride a spirited steed and holding her sword of destiny aloft, won an honorable mention at the Paris Salon of 1910. Historian Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein notes: "Recognized as one of the finest equestrian statues by an American, Joan of Arc compares favorably with versions by the Frenchmen Fremiet and DuBois...[and is] a landmark in the history of women sculptors."2
Huntington's series of famed equestrian statues continued with Cid Campeador, 1927, in Seville, Spain and of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City. Her Don Quixote of 1942 is also part of the permanent collection of Hispanic Society. In each of these works, Huntington demonstrates her rare ability to adapt the character of the horse to that of the individual horseman, while treating both subjects with real feeling for their inherent dignity. Torch Bearers-symbolizing the passing of the torch of civilization and progress from one generation to the next-embodies this same genius for modeling, for direct expression of action, as well as the artist's unparalleled gift of observation.
Huntington originally conceived of Torch Bearers in 1955 to be offered as a unique gift from the artist and her husband, Archer Milton Huntington, to the University of Madrid, in Spain. In October 1961 Earle M. Newton, Director of The Museum of Art, Science and Industry in Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote to Huntington requesting a suitable monument to be placed in the institution's courtyard. Huntington responded within days that the project interested her, and she suggested Torch Bearers. The artist ultimately offered the work as a gift to the new museum, along with an additional $5,000 toward the cost of the base, in order to ensure a proper setting for her grand masterwork.
The museum board was thrilled with the gift, and they immediately appointed a landscape architect to select and prepare the perfect plot for the monument on the institution's grounds. In a letter to the artist dated March 1, 1962, Newton writes: "[We have] already selected the position and will be laying out the mounting as soon as the frost breaks this spring. I think it's a very lovely spot, with a backing of foliage; I am sure you will like it. And we are so pleased to have this superb piece of art."
Roman Bronze Works was hired to cast the work in bronze, an undertaking which took months to complete. Finally, On August 6, 1963, the museum unveiled a one-woman show of Huntington's work in tandem with the presentation of Torch Bearers to the public. The museum, which was later renamed the Discovery Museum, has been the home to this spectacular sculpture ever since.
The monument was lauded by both the museum and the community when it was unveiled in 1963 and has continued to draw praise until today. Ward Cruickshank II, Curator of Exhibits, writes to Huntington on September 11, 1963: "The 'Torchbearer' is perfectly beautiful in its location at the Museum. Alice Orme Smith and I selected a site where the sculpture would be seen against a stand of young pines and oaks, and beyond that a huge outcropping of ledge. I noticed this morning that there are several large white dogwoods at one side. This should really be a sight next spring! We are happy to have your magnificent work. I think either this fall or next spring we may want to have the sculpture photographed so we may provide our visitors with the color postcards they are already requesting....
"As a matter of special interest to us, and I am sure to you too, our average monthly attendance for past exhibitions has been about 1,500 to 1,700. Attendance at your exhibition for its first month has been just a little over 3,000!"
In addition to the present work, there are only four known examples of Torch Bearer in existence. These other examples, cast in aluminum, are located in Havana, Cuba, the University of Madrid in Spain, the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.
Throughout her life, Huntington received numerous commissions for public monuments, earned international praise, and saw her sculptures placed in major museums worldwide. Almost up to her death at the age of 97, Huntington was never without a work in progress, and Torch Bearers remains one of the most successful monuments in the artist's oeuvre. In its grandeur, poignant realism and exceptional rendering, Torch Bearer celebrates why Anna Hyatt Huntington is considered America's greatest animalier.
Please note: This lot is located in Bridgeport, Connecticut. To make an appointment to view the piece or for a condition report, please contact Aviva Lehmann at firstname.lastname@example.org in our New York office. Buyer will be responsible for de-installation and transport from its current location.
1: as quoted in G.L. Tarbox, Jr., Brookgreen Gardens: Where Art and Nature Meet, 1931-1991, New York, 1991, p. 9.
2: American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions, Maryland, 1990, n.p.
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