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Redding, Connecticut's Famous People :: Anna Hyatt Huntington  

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Joel Barlow, Charles Ives, Edward Steichen, Mark Twain

Anna Hyatt Huntington
From "The Redding Times" Vol. 2, No. 2, November 8, 1956

One of the busiest women in Redding is the widow of Archer M. Huntington, who died, at the age of eighty-five, on December 11th of last year. After fifty years of creating art in the round--some with hammer and chisel--Mrs. Huntington finds there are still countless mental images pressing to be materialized. One on which she is currently working is a statue of Jose' Marti, the Cuban hero, commissioned for the Boulevard of the Americas.

As we all gratefully realize, the Huntington estate has been given to Connecticut for a park, as the Huntington 500 acres on Low Thor was presented to the Palisades Park Commission a few years ago--part of the fifty million dollars in gifts which Americans owe to the massive generosity of this remarkable man and his talented wife. One of the last of these was a handsome check to the Mark Twain Library. Already in place on the gateposts of the park are two bronzes recently completed by Mrs. Huntington and shown opposite. They are characteristic of her love for animals--her favorite subjects--as is the group of bronze horses that she gave to the Redding school. Some of us thought these lively steeds deserved a more conspicuous location, but being half-size, she thinks them admirably placed.

Unlike the cold and impersonal statuary of which one sees so much and which leaves the beholder unmoved, the work of Anna Huntington almost comes to life. The figures of the two wolves on the gatepost, for example, are a perfect representation of frustration, while the mother bear with cubs, across the entrance speak eloquently of mother love and protection. Even the facial expressions of the five animals have that rare quality of fitness for which the best illustrators strive. And it is most suitable that wild animals should have been chosen to mark the entrance to a park which was picked for its natural scenery and which is unspoiled by any attempt to formalize the landscape. The lake, unseen from Sunset HIll Road is so beautiful that, after driving around it in the morning, I asked permission to return again in the afternoon and review it with Mrs. Nye that we might savor to the full the jewel-like charm of the reaches of clear, deep blue water in its setting of lichen-covered crags and the reds, oranges, yellows and greens of Connecticut fall foliage at its peak.

The marriage of Anna and Archer Huntington in 1923 marked the beginning of a human and cultural partnership so unusual as to suggest special emphasis. It was summed up in one of Mr. Huntington's last poems, the dedication to A.H.H. in The Torch Bearers, a selection, published in 1955, from the many short poems written during the eighty-fourth and eighty-fifth years of the author:

To you whose joyous smile across the haze
Of weariness, could flood with light the days,
And fold the valley of our journeying,
Ever in the silvery dawn of spring.
To you my heart, as might a sunlit sea,
Welcome your soul, ship of my destiny!
With you in splendor past all dreams' desire,
I found a world lighted by love's true fire.

Long before they met, each partner had won distinction in a chosen field of art--Archer as scholar, bibliophile, collector, translator, and poet--Anna as a sculptress of international renown, who had studied with Hermon MacNeil and Gutzon Borglum, as well as at the National Academy of Design; had taken the Rodin and Saltus Gold Medals; and for her Joan of Arc had been decorated by the French government and made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Not long after their marriage, the same honor was proffered to Mr. Huntington who graciously accepted. But when the official looked up the record, he found that Mr. Huntington had been a Chevalier for ten years--probably the only one in history modest enough to have forgotten the distinction--a virtue fully shared with his wife.

Archer Huntington was the perfect example of the scion of a wealthy empire builder, endowed with talents which he valued far above the millions left to him by Collis P. Huntington, builder of the Southern Pacific. Archer was as self-made in his cultural attainments and erudition as his father had been in business and he used the inherited wealth to raise the level of graphic art and letters in America and overseas by collecting, housing and endowing sixteen museums, art collections, wildlife preserves, etc. These outright gifts were made without benefit of committees, institutions or press agents and solely according to his own conscientious and penetrating judgment. They included, among others, substantial gifts to the Hispanic, Numismatic Historical and American Geographical Societies; the Heye Foundation for the American Indian; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Asia Institute; Museum of the City of New York; San Francisco Palace of the Legion of Honour; Yale University Museum; the Mariners' Museum and a Golf Museum at Newport News; a 16,000 acre Wild Life and Forestry Station to Syracuse University; and last, but by no means least, Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.

Few men have had less formal instruction or have acquired more knowledge than Archer Huntington. At one time he applied to Columbia University, but his indifference to mathematics barred him and he went ahead in his own way to satisfy his consuming curiosity and exercise his boundless energy to develop the aptitudes which he had inherited from his mother and which she had encouraged him to pursue. As a very young man he went to Spain and spent two years traveling, largely by donkey, to least known districts and remote villages. He became fascinated by the Spanish language and sought to render some Spanish classics into English. He was especially intrigued by the great epic poem of The Cid, felt that the existing English translations were inadequate, and essayed a better version. In preparation for this ambitious undertaking he went to Morocco to be tutored in the Arabic language--with Latin the foundation of Spanish--that he might rightly interpret the finer nuances of the historic poem. His translation, in three volumes, though written nearly fifty years ago, is still considered by far the most satisfying. His many poems--the best published in 1953 as his collected verse--his translations and other writings have earned for him an honored place on the library bookshelves of both hemispheres and earned honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Columbia and other colleges.
The union of Archer and Anna Huntington seems to have stimulated each to higher achievements. Anna's equestrian statue of The Cid Campeador was erected at Servilla in 1927 and a replica placed on the grounds of the Hispanic Society of America, together with two flagpole bases, two lions, a red stag, a red doe and fawn, and four other animal groups. Bulls Fighting won the Shaw Prize of the National Academy of Design in 1928 and Greyhounds Playing the Widener Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Academy in 1937. Both of the Huntingtons were decorated by the Spanish government, she with the Grand Cross and he as Knight Commander of the Order of Alfonso the Twelfth. In 1930 she was awarded a gold medal by the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 1932 an honorary degree of doctor of fine arts by Syracuse University. In 1936 a retrospective exhibition of her work was held in New York by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A special medal of honor was presented to her in 1940 by the National Sculpture Society in recognition, both of her work and of her unfailing interest in her fellow sculptors. And she is the only woman to have been elected a corresponding member of the Spanish Academia de Bellas Artes de Fernando.

The Huntington gift which has perhaps given the most pleasure to the traveling public and which best expresses the personalities of husband and wife, is the 10,000 acre estate at Brookgreens, South Carolina. It was a consolidation of three historic plantations on the coast; one, the famous Allston plantation, a second the scene of the novel, Scarlet Sister Mary. Originally the land was acquired as a preserve for native flora and fauna. In the words of Mrs. Huntington, it is "a quiet joining of hands between science and art...an outline collection representative of the history of American sculpture, from the nineteenth century, which finds its natural expression out of doors." So extensive is the assembly of selected examples of the work of our best sculptors that a five hundred page book was required briefly to describe them. To the bronzes and marbles, as an expression of the poet's art, have been added a number of well chosen verses inscribed in stone.

Mrs. Huntington is reticent in talking about herself, so I was fortunate in having present during our chat her sister Harriet, Mrs. Alfred G. Mayor, likewise a sculptress and Anna's first inspiration and instructor. The younger sister, Mrs. Mayor told me, has always been devoted to horses and in their Cambridge, Massachusetts, home, when Anna's head barely reached to the window sill, she would stand there and sketch every horse which showed itself in the yard. So observant was the young artist that, when shown any small area of a horse's anatomy, she could immediately tell to what horse it belonged. It wasn't long before two dimensional art ceased to satisfy her and now she never sketches her compositions, but goes right to work on the plasticine. She is today an alert and vigorous woman. I was not surprised to learn that she has broken many a recalcitrant colt and is in complete command of her reflexes even when working precariously on the elevated platform in her studio to perfect one of her king-sized sculptures. Michelangelo worked until he was eighty-nine and Titan painted well into his nineties, so, judging by her present pace, we can look forward to another fifteen or twenty years of top-level production.

Her present bent is toward marine life. She showed me two recent works in her studio--one of a group of seals, the other a composition of whirling fishes, rising from a base of turtles, crabs, starfish and other denizens of the deep--which impressed me greatly both in design and execution. She is a true draftsman in three dimensions and a meticulous craftsman. I could have spent hours in the studio looking at such examples as the statuette of her grande dame grandmother. This remarkable woman crossed the ocean forty times, but still found time to take charge of the wounded at the Civil War hospital in Baltimore and at Gettysburg--insisting on caring for the soldiers in grey and blue alike. The figure, expresses in every line, including her cane, the forceful and dominant female. Or the bust of Don Quixote, modeled from an old worker on the place--a perfect characterization. But the most interesting of all, again expressing her originality, was the memorial she designed for her husband and herself. At first he demurred--it was such an unusual idea for one of the living subjects to design her own monument. But she said, "Someone will do it and probably not the way we would want it done. Who is better qualified than I to express what life means to us?" So she composed a rectangular bas relief with a young couple as the central figures and her husband's bookshelf and one of her deerhounds used to symbolize the things for which they most cared.
Redding is a wonderful place and in it are many wonderful people.
Frank W. Nye

Energy and Individuality in the Art of Anna Huntington, Sculptor, and Amy Beach
by Myrna G. Eden

Huntington Park
Tracy Birmingham, Nadia Tarlow

When Anna Hyatt Huntington died in 1973, she left us all a legacy in her magnificent sculptures. Many of our public buildings are enhanced by her bronze statues. But, she and her husband, Archer, left us another legacy in Huntington State Park, a park of 800 acres located in the northeast corner of Redding.

We talked with Henry Rasmussen, who was employed by Mrs. Huntington, in an effort to learn more about how the gift came about and the history of the land.

The estate originally belonged to the Luttgen family, and was later owned by the Sterret family. Archer Huntington bought the estate and named it Stanerigg. Archer was the son of Colis P. Huntington, a wealthy man who was a shipbuilder and the founder of the Chesapeake, the Ohio and the Union Pacific Railroads.

Before his death, Archer willed 800 acres of the original estate to the State of Connecticut. It was named Huntington State Park before his death in 1955.

During Mr. Rasmussen's employment with Mrs. Huntington, she often expressed her desire to have the park remain in its natural state for people to enjoy. Her wishes have resulted in a park that has been open to the public for 8 years. Few modifications have been made other than the bridge being restored. The park is used for walking, hiking, horseback riding, picnicing, fishing, cross-country skiiing, boating and nature study. The Department of Environmental Protection provides patrols at the park to see that Mrs. Huntington's wishes are fulfilled.


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