HISTORY:  Anna Hyatt Huntington

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Huntington working on a sculpture of a horse.

S.C. Encyclopedia  |  Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington was born in Cambridge, Mass., on March 10, 1876, the daughter of noted paleontologist, naturalist, and Harvard professor, Alpheus Hyatt. She planned to become a concert violinist before her sister encouraged her to try sculpture. As early as 1898 she began to exhibit her work, and by 1906 she had established a reputation as a fine sculptor of animals. She studied briefly under Henry Hudson Kitson of Boston and in the Art Students’ League in New York, and she received valuable criticism from Gustav Borglum. She also studied with Hermon Atkins MacNeil, George Grey Barnard, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and Malvina Hoffman.

In 1906 Huntington went to Paris, where she became interested in Joan of Arc. She lived in Europe from 1906 to 1908 and again in 1910, when she won an honorable mention for her plaster model of Joan of Arc. She then returned to the United States, where she executed many commissions, including a monument to Joan of Arc for Riverside Park in New York City. It was the city’s first public sculpture of a woman and by a woman, and the first to depict Joan of Arc in proper period costume. By 1915 Anna Hyatt was an established artist making a good living, and she was listed as one of ten women in America making more than fifty thousand dollars a year.

She met Archer Milton Huntington in 1921, when he commissioned her to create a medal for the Hispanic Society of America, which he had founded. Huntington was the adopted son of Collis P. Huntington, who founded the Southern Pacific Railroad. Archer Huntington had a deep interest in art, particularly Spanish art and culture, which Anna came to share. In 1922 they both served on a committee for the National Sculpture Society, and they married in 1923. This was the second marriage for Huntington. She was forty-seven, and he was fifty-three.

The Huntingtons discovered Brookgreen Plantation near Murrell’s Inlet, SC, in 1929, while they were looking for a winter home. Anna had developed tuberculosis, and the couple wanted to escape the cold northern winters. Initially, they purchased about 6,600 acres of land at Brookgreen for $225,000, and throughout the 1930s they bought more land until they owned 9,127 acres of forest, beach, and riverfront property. The Huntingtons envisioned Brookgreen Gardens as a place to exhibit American figurative sculpture outdoors amid native plants and animals, and they worked to fulfill this vision.

In 1937 the Huntingtons moved from New York City to Haverstraw, New York, to an estate they called “Rocas,” and then in 1940 to an estate and farm near Bethel, Connecticut, which they called “Stanerigg.” There she became interested in owning and breeding Scottish deerhounds, and her kennel at Stanerigg produced a number of award-winning dogs. Her primary focus, however, remained her art. She continued to sculpt and produce fine pieces until illness forced her to stop in 1972. She died shortly thereafter in 1973.

Huntington gained her greatest fame from her sculptures of equestrian statues. Well-known examples include El Cid (located in several locations including the Hispanic Society of America in New York and Seville, Spain), Young Andrew Jackson (Andrew Jackson State Park, Lancaster, South Carolina), General Israel Putnam (Putnam Memorial Park, Redding, Connecticut), and The Torchbearers (Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid). Her last major equestrian piece was a statue of Cuban nationalist Jos Mart, which stands in New York’s Central Park. The piece was begun in the mid 1950s, but because of the United States’ difficult relations with Cuba, it was not unveiled until 1965. Her sculpture Fighting Stallions marks the entrance to Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.

Huntington was an active member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Academy of Design, and the National Sculpture Society. She received numerous awards and honors over her career, including a silver medal at the San Francisco Exposition in 1915, a gold medal in Philadelphia in 1917, and the Saltus Gold Medal from the National Academy of Design. She became a chevalier of the Légion d’honneur in 1933 and was named “Woman of the Americas” in 1958. Huntington died on Oct. 4, 1973, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.

Excerpted from an entry by W. Eric Emerson.  This entry hasn’t been updated since 2006.  To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

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2 Comments

  1. Par Miller says:

    We so joy our trips to Brookgreen and always mention it to anyone we know who is planning a trip to the Myrtle Beech area. It is truly a treasure to the United States as well as the world.

  2. Though no longer a South Carolina resident, I frequently visited
    Brookgreen Gardens for over 45 years and wrote of the Gardens
    while there.  It is difficult for me to say that I loved one particular
    part of the Gardens more than any other though I loved visiting
    the island where stood Anna’s “Youth Taming the Wild.”  I would
    visit the island in cool weather when the alligators were not
    sunning on the island.  I’d often sit on the ground with the sculpture
    to my back to write and Anna was often a part of any that I wrote.

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