February 2016

Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: A Compendium

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Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, with The Dancers (1921) and The Star (1918). Unknown date, unknown photographer. Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y.

Largely neglected today, Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980) was a sculptor best known for her exuberant embodiments of the youthful female form. Frishmuth studied briefly with Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), widely considered the greatest sculptor of the nineteenth century. Her most compelling work, The Vine (1923), may particularly reflect Rodin's influence, as discussed by Joseph Dreiss (see "Life and Work" below). Accounts of Frishmuth's life often mention that she was critical of modern art.

This page on Frishmuth is dedicated to the memory of American sculpture historian and Frishmuth scholar Beatrice Gilman Proske (1899-2002), whose article "Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: Lyric Sculptor" we published in Aristos in June 1984. Shortly thereafter, we promised Bea, who had become a dear friend, that we would strive to ensure that her own work and Frishmuth's legacy would live on to inspire future generations. This compendium, to be expanded as material becomes available, is a modest step toward that end. Suggestions for new items and corrections, as well as notifications regarding broken links, are welcome. -- Louis Torres

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Life and Work

* "Harriet Whitney Frishmuth" (Wikipedia)
* "Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: Lyric Sculptor," by Beatrice Gilman Proske (Aristos, June 1984).
* Sculptured Hyacinths [cover ], Charles N. Aronson (1913-1995), 1973. To find a copy of the book in a library near you, enter your location (zip/postal code or country name) in the book's WorldCat page.
* Review of Sculptured Hyacinths, Louis Torres, Aristos , June 1984, page 3.
* Captured Motion. The Sculpture of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: A Catalogue of Works, Janis Conner, Leah Rosenblatt Lehmbeck, and Thayer Tolles, Christies/Hohmann Holdings, LLC (2006).
* "Frishmuth, Harriet Whitney (1880-1979)," in North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary (1995), edited by Jules Heller and Nancy G. Heller. [Frishmuth's correct death date was 1980, not 1979.]
* "The Sculpture of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth and New York Dance" (1994), Joseph G. Dreiss, Syracuse University, The Courier, Paper 312, illustrated, pp. 29-40. As noted by The Courier's editor, "Dreiss sketches the early career of . . . Frishmuth, and shows how her best work was influenced by New York dance--especially by a certain lighthearted dancer [Desha Delteil, on whom see below]."
* New Britain [Conn.] Museum of American Art. The museum's permanent collection includes a copy of Peter Pan [more], 1936.
* Harriet Whitney Frishmuth Papers. Inventory at Syracuse University. Includes correspondence; photographs, blueprints, and sketches of her work; mementos; albums and tapes; scrapbooks; and publications.

Works Cited and Illustrated in "Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: Lyric Sculptor"

The following list refers to the numbered illustrations in "Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: Lyric Sculptor."

* 1. The Vine [more].
A larger-than-life bronze figure more daring in every respect than any of Frishmuth's other work, The Vine surely ranks as a masterpiece of twentieth-century American sculpture that can hold its own against any sculptural representation of the female nude in the history of art. If you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, don't miss this splendid work, on permanent view in the Charles Engelhard Court (at lower right) of the American Wing.

In the Engelhard Court
* Post-renovation (2009): Image 1 / Image 2
* Pre-renovation (2003): Installed on ivy ground (9 images)

In Metropolitan Museum of Art Catalogue
* American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume 2: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born between 1865 and 1885 [some pages are omitted from this book preview], edited by Thayer Tolles. Full entry on The Vine.

Copying The Vine
In 2014, Jessica Artman, a painter who also sculpts, made an exquisite small copy (12.5 x 7.5 x 2.75 in.) of The Vine over a period of five days as part of a Grand Central Atelier (GCA) "Copying at the Met - Workshop Week." The Met filmed a delightful #MetKids interview with her as she worked: "What's That Artist Making in the Galleries?." The interviewer, Sebastian, was eight years old.

Artman is a core student at the GCA in Queens, New York (see "The Classical Tradition . . . Alive and Well in Long Island City," Aristos, December 2015). She was the recipient of a 2014 Hudson River Fellowship award, as well as Art Renewal Center Scholarship Awards in 2014 and 2015 .

Original Casts in Other Collections
* Cincinnati Art Museum. "Visitors Can Watch Cincinnati Art Museum Conservator Restore [The Vine]," ArtDaily.org, June 28, 2015. The Vine [more ] (photos by Lee Sandstead, 2006).
* McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "[O]ne of only two original castings of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth's sculpture The Vine, which is displayed in the main lobby of the museum."
* University of California at Los Angeles. Sculpture Garden, The Vine.

Smaller Casts
There are 350 casts of this smaller version, which was modeled on the dancer Renee Wilde---not on Desha Delteil (see below), who posed for the larger version.
* Heritage Auctions
* Ophir Gallery

* 2. Extase [more] [more] [ more]
* 3. Slavonic Dancer [more]
* 4. The Dancers
* 5. Joy of the Waters [more--click on image]
* 6. Call of the Sea [more --click on image] [more] [more]
* 7. Crest of the Wave [more] [more (text + dozen images)]
* 8. Sweet Grapes [more ] [more] [more]

Other Works

* Peter Pan (1000 / Museums)
* Play Days (Sotheby's cites "Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: Lyric Sculptor," but inaccurately)
* James & Gayle Halperin Collection.

Personal Appreciations

* "Joy Is Our Cause: Harriet Whitney Frishmuth," Jane Librizzi, The Blue Lantern: Illuminating Arts and Letters (weblog), May 14, 2014.
* "[Peter Pan at] New Britain Museum of Art," Martha Alden Schuler, Martha's Museum Experience (weblog), June 17, 2007.

Frishmuth's Principal Model

* "Desha Delteil" (Wikipedia)
* "Desha Delteil, dancer," 60 thumbnail b&w images and checklist. George Eastman Museum (formerly the George Eastman House), Rochester, N.Y. Still Photograph Archive.
* Image of Desha posing for The Vine.