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.
Sculptor. Huntington was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 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 October 4, 1973, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.
Archives of American Art. “Oral History Interview with Anna Hyatt-Huntington. [ca. 1964].” Smithsonian Institution. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/ interviews/oral-history-interview-anna-hyatthuntington-11738
Finding Aids. “Anna Hyatt Huntington Papers.” Syracuse University Library. http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/h/huntington_ah.htm
South Carolina Hall of Fame. “Anna Hyatt Huntington.” South Carolina ETV. Accessed June 18, 2012. http://www.scetv.org/index.php/sc_hall_of_fame/show/anna_hyatt_huntington