20th Century Leaders

Anna Hyatt Huntington

Credit: Anna Hyatt Huntington Modeling "The Torchbearers" by Herbert Bohnert, oil on canvas, 1958, Collection of Brookgreen Gardens

Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973), one of America’s most accomplished artist-sculptress was born in Cambridge, Mass.

Her father was a pioneer marine biologist who specialized in paleontology and was connected with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although her family was not wealthy Hyatt grew up in comfort, dividing her time between the family home, Norton’s Wood, in Cambridge, and “Seven Acres,” a summer farm at Annisquam, Massachusetts. By her early teens, she had become interested in sculpture. Although she studied briefly in Boston and at the Art Students League, Hyatt really was self-taught in sculpture. Her knowledge of animal anatomy, the basis for her sculpture, was the result of a keen power of observation, developed through childhood field trips with her father and visits to her brother’s farm near Leonardtown, Maryland.

Early on, the horse emerged as Hyatt’s favorite subject and she began to incorporate equine subjects into her monumental commissions. By 1912, Hyatt was earning more than $50,000 a year with her sculpture.

In 1923 Anna Hyatt married Archer Huntington (1870-1955), one of the wealthiest men in America. Huntington was a scholar and philanthropist who founded museums and supported a number of cultural organizations internationally. Though he and Hyatt had known of one another through mutual friends, they did not meet until Huntington commissioned Hyatt to design a medal.

At the time of their marriage, she was one of the foremost sculptresses in America, having built a reputation sculpting monuments, garden figures and other works that focused on animal themes.

A few years after their marriage, the Huntingtons purchased property in coastal South Carolina with the idea of building a winter home. In 1931 they founded Brookgreen Gardens, a cultural institution, to collect, preserve and exhibit the plants and animals of the Southeast, and to display American figurative sculpture.

Today, Brookgreen’s outdoor sculpture collection is the finest in the world. Anna Hyatt Huntington’s legacy as an important sculptress and patroness of the arts led the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1992 to designate Brookgreen Gardens a National Historic Landmark.