Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Malvina Hoffman

Struggle of Elemental Man
University of Syracuse
New York

By Luana Luconi Winner
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 33, 3rd Quarter 2006

 Malvina Hoffman was 43 when she received a wire from the Field Museum in Chicago, “Have proposition to make…”

When she received the commission, this New Yorker, daughter of pianist Richard Hoffman and dedicated interpreter of the human form, was already a monumental woman of the arts and sculptor in demand.  She set out, traveling the world for five years and sculpting 104 life-sized figures, busts, and heads in bronze and stone for the "Races of the World" Hall of Man at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.  The project became her crowning contribution to the art world and combined knowledge of anthropology, art history, ethnicity and modern culture.  The sculptures are still housed at Chicago's Field Museum.

Malvina’s early childhood was filled with visiting musicians and artists at her family home.  She entered the Art Students League by age 14.  When, at age 21, she became dissatisfied with her oil portrait of her ill father, she turned to clay.

Tamil Man of Southern India
Malvina Hoffman
Chicago Field Museum
At 23, Malvina traveled to France with a letter of recommendation from her teacher, Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore.  Auguste Rodin repeatedly refused her as a student, but finally succumbed to her persistence.  After five years in Paris she established her own foundry, became a master founder, and wrote her book, Sculpture Inside and Out, on bronze technique.

Malvina created a large oeuvre based on her friend, the famed Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.  The bas-relief frieze of Russian dancers Malvina created became legend.  Other large scale works included a memorial group in Harvard's War Memorial Chapel for Robert Bacon, Ambassador to France, and the heroic stone figures and an altar for the entrance to Bush House in London.

With her commitment to capturing the individual spirit of every person, Malvina wrote:  “To understand the submerged passion that burns in the human eye, to read the hieroglyphs of suffering etched in the lines of a human face….to watch the gesture of a hand or listen for the false notes and the true in a human voice, these were the mysteries that I found I must delve into and try to unravel when I made a portrait.”

Bibliography for Malvina Hoffman

Sculpture Inside and Out by Malvina Hoffman, W.W. Norton Company Publisher, New York, 1939
Heads and Tales, by Malvina Hoffman, Bonanza Books, Crown Publishers, Inc.,
New York, 1943
Yesterday is Tomorrow: A Personal History
by Malvina Hoffman Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, Jan 1, 1965
Malvina Hoffman
by Malvina Hoffman
_ June 1992American Women Sculptors by Charlotte Rubinstein (1990)
Rediscoveries in American Sculpture by Janis Conner & Joel Rosenkranz (1989)
Dictionary of American Sculptors by Glenn Opitz
Masters of American Sculpture by Donald M. Reynolds
American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1965)
Exhibition of American Sculpture Catalogue by the National Sculpture Society (1923)

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