Columbia University in the City of New York

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery

Goddess, Heroine, Beast: Anna Hyatt Huntington's New York Sculpture, 1902–1936

About the Exhibition

Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876–1973) was once among New York City's most prominent sculptors. Today, her work is displayed in many of New York’s leading institutions and outdoor spaces, including Columbia University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, the New-York Historical Society, the Hispanic Society, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Central Park, Riverside Park, and the Bronx Zoo. Despite the presence of her sculptures throughout the city, Hyatt Huntington is not well-recognized today. Goddess, Heroine, Beast: Anna Hyatt Huntington’s New York Sculpture, 1902–1936 aims to redress that by focusing on her New York career, which is of particular note.

At a time when very few women were successful artists, she had a thriving career. By 1912, Anna Hyatt Huntington was rumored to be among the most highly-paid  professional women in the United States. She exhibited often, traveled widely, received critical acclaim at home and abroad, and won awards and commissions. In 1915, Hyatt Huntington created the first public monument in New York City by a woman: her Joan of Arc on Riverside Drive and 93rd street. Over thirteen feet high, her martial equestrian heroine, clad in armor from head to toe and cast in bronze, was also the city’s first public monument to a historical woman. Meanwhile, Hyatt Huntington had become famous for her animal sculptures that combined ferocious spirit with skillful realism. Critics called her a “sculptor of the first rank” and proclaimed that her animal sculpture were so vivid they were “only surpassed by the great Hellenistic masters of animal life.”

Anna Hyatt Huntington worked on every scale, from the monument to the medal.  To do justice to her range, Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery brings her largest work into its exhibition and website with digital technology. High-resolution, rotational photography of the Riverside Park Joan of Arc created especially for this project by the Media Center for Art History at Columbia University allows one of New York City’s most historic monuments to become visible as never before.  At the same time, the exhibition compares digital and real versions of sculpture, massive and miniature. Alongside its wall-size digital projection of the Joan of Arc monument, the exhibition includes a bronze version of the same statue, forty-five inches high, and a commemorative medal version of the same subject.

Fourteen animal sculptures circle Hyatt Huntington’s life-size bronze 1922 Diana of the Chase. One room focuses on big cats, including both actual sculptures and rotational imagery of one of the two life-size jaguar statues at the Bronx Zoo. Jaguars, lions and tigers were favorite themes of Hyatt Huntington’s during her New York years. The goddess of beasts and of the hunt, Diana, derived from the archaic Greek goddess Artemis, has been an archetype of female autonomy and power for thousands of years. Both Diana and Joan of Arc represented alter egos of the artist, who was, in person, exceptionally tall and strong.

At the height of her fame, in 1923, the artist married noted philanthropist Archer Miller Huntington, who founded the Hispanic Society of America and was a major contributor to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Numismatic Society. As soon as they met the two began to plan sculptures for the Hispanic Society. Many of these are presented at the Wallach Art Gallery for the first time.

The final section of the exhibition explores Hyatt Huntington’s artistic identity with a forgotten film and newly rediscovered sculptures of hands. In 1930, the artist was featured in a film about stone carving made for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which shows Anna Hyatt Huntington carving her life-size jaguars.

Anne Higonnet, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Art History at Barnard College and Columbia University organized this project for the Wallach Art Gallery with Columbia MA student Kitty Dare as assistant project coordinator. The exhibition, its catalogue, and the website are products of an experiment in applied teaching and collaborative digital publishing. A class of nineteen PhD, MA and BA students from Barnard and Columbia worked on every aspect of the project.  Original new scholarship produced by the class both clarifies Hyatt Huntington’s production, trajectory and work dates and reconsiders her pioneering contributions to American sculpture, in an effort to revive her reputation.
The students, many of whose scholarship is published on this website include: Morgan Albahary, Caitlin Beach, Margot Bernstein, Yoon Jin Cha, Sonia Coman, Celia Durkin, Kofoworola Eke, Lidia Ferrara, Daria Rose Foner, Lisa Heller, Victoria Jones, Katherine Lauricella, Daniel Ralston, Lauren Robbins, Mary Lib Schmidt, Ben Swetland, Zoe Flood Tardino, Ellen Watkins, and Julia Wolkoff.

The Wallach Art Gallery is indebted to the many lenders to this exhibition:

American Academy of Arts and Letters
Columbia University Art Properties
Connor-Rosencranz, LLC
Hispanic Society of America
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute
New-York Historical Society
Syracuse University Art Galleries

This project has been made possible by an endowment from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation. We are grateful to an anonymous benefactor who funded the catalogue.