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Anna Hyatt Huntington introduced her work into public institutions with the proverbial “thin end of the wedge.” The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences commissioned a group of animals for its paleontological department by the end of 1902.5 The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired in 1906.The prestige of this acquisition was in inverse proportion to the 7 1/4 inch high size of the sculpture.
Candidates were rejected because they were too small or too delicate. Her stories hinted at a dramatic increase in the scope of her ambitions.
They also deflected attention away from what was truly radical about her next project.
By brilliantly combining the city’s opportunities, she achieved one pioneering success after another between 19.
Those achievements left their mark on the city, forgotten but waiting to be rediscovered.
By Anne Higonnet, Ann Whitney Olin Professor, Department of Art History, Barnard College and Columbia University New York City met Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) when she arrived in 1902 with three systems that could support her unlikely aspiration to public sculpture.
Only in New York could she have found such a thriving market for small sculpture, such a network of ambitious arts institutions, and so many unconventionally professional women, all in the same place.
Daniel Chester French, the visionary sculpture curator of the Metropolitan, advocated the collection of work by living artists, a policy financially feasible because of the statuette market.
The Metropolitan acquired two more of her works by 1912, both of which measured less than foot high.
Had she chosen the much less institutionalized, avant-garde alternative to Salon art, she could not have returned to New York with as persuasive a qualification for public art. An executive of Tiffany & Company, the New York luxury jewelry and design firm then at the height of its artistic reputation, he knew the esthetic of the statuette.
A subject like Joan of Arc was perfectly suited to the idealizing and patriotic classicism of Beaux-Arts New York. His thoughts, like Anna Anna Hyatt Huntington’s, had turned to public art.