Highlighting Brookgreen’s Founder: Anna Hyatt Huntington

4 Jan

Highlighting Brookgreen’s Founder: Anna Hyatt Huntington

Continuing the legacy of its founder, Anna Hyatt Huntington, who is considered one of the top American animal sculptors of the 20th century, Brookgreen Gardens on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast® will soon display a special exhibition of her work.

Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1921.

Titled “American Animalier: The Life and Art of Anna Hyatt Huntington,” the exhibit will be on view from Jan. 29 to April 24, 2022, in the Brenda and Dick Rosen Galleries. Free with garden admission, the exhibit includes more than 70 objects: sculptures, portrait paintings, historic objects, and photographic enlargements of outdoor sculptures spanning the scope of Huntington’s prolific career throughout the 20th century.

“Brookgreen is uniquely positioned to present this retrospective, thanks to the unparalleled expertise of our curator and expansive collection of art and artifacts,” said Page Kiniry, president and CEO of Brookgreen Gardens. “It will also be truly special to learn about her art and life in a place she used to call home.”

The daughter of a paleontologist and marine biologist, Huntington began to sculpt with an affinity for animal anatomy. Early on, her favorite subject was the horse, and she began incorporating horses into her commissions. In 1910, she created the original Joan of Arc on horseback; four years later, she was commissioned to sculpt her most famous work for New York City.

“People walk by her Joan of Arc in New York’s Riverside Park every day but may not know who made it,” Kiniry said. “She’s one of the most famous artists many people have never heard of.”

This retrospective will present sculpture spanning the scope of Huntington’s career from the late 19th century to a few years before her death in 1973.  The works are from the Brookgreen collection as well as on loan from private collections, art dealers, and museums. A bronze reduction of Joan of Arc and a silver Joan of Arc commemorative cup created by Tiffany & Co. are among the notable objects on display in the exhibit.

Page Kiniry, president and CEO of Brookgreen Gardens, sits near “Diana,” one of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculptures. (Photo provided by Brookgreen Gardens)

Anna and her husband, Archer Huntington, purchased property near Murrells Inlet for a winter home in 1930. That property is now where Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park are located. Just a year later, the Huntingtons turned a large portion of the property into the first public sculpture garden in the United States, and she began selecting works to create a significant sculpture collection. Throughout her career, Anna produced 20 life-size or larger equestrian monuments. In addition to Joan of Arc, she also created works of art of the medieval military leader, El Cid; the American Revolution hero, Sybil Ludington; and the chivalrous Don Quixote from Spanish literature – all of which will be included in this exhibit.

Read about the Riverside Park and how Huntington’s Joan of Arc sculpture came about by clicking here. The New York Parks website notes that the Joan of Arc sculpture was dedicated on Dec. 6, 1915, in an elaborate ceremony, which included a military band and was attended by French Ambassador Jean J. Jusserand. Mrs. Thomas Alva Edison was among those selected to pull the cord that released the shroud. The website also noted that Huntington went on to “have a long and illustrious career.”

A bronze reduction of Huntington’s sculpture “Joan of Arc” will be part of the exhibit. A life-sized version of this sculpture stands in New York City’s Riverside Park. (Photo courtesy of Brookgreen Gardens)

“She was a prolific artist; not only did she live a long time (97 years) and worked for most of those years, but she also worked quickly and had 570 works to her credit that I have catalogued,” said Robin Salmon, vice president of art and historical collections/curator of sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens. “During the final 20 years of her life, she created 10 equestrian sculptures that were life-size or larger. That’s an amazing feat for any artist, let alone one in her 70s and 80s.”

Due to Huntington’s significance as an artist and art patron, as well as the number of women sculptors represented in the collection, Brookgreen Gardens was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992. This designation recognizes its importance in women’s history and Anna’s importance in the patronage of American figurative sculpture.

“(Anna) was also generous with her time and resources, sharing her studio space with those less fortunate early in her career, critiquing the work of other artists, and after her marriage to Archer Huntington establishing museums and supporting various philanthropic programs,” Salmon said. “The foundation of the Brookgreen sculpture collection was created by her in the 1930s, not only by adding her own work but by acquiring the work of the best artists from the past and the rising stars of the present.”

For more information about Brookgreen Gardens, click here, or call 843-235-6000.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and never miss what's happening on South Carolina's Hammock Coast!