Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington was an unknown sculptor of animals before earning well-deserved and hard-won renown for her sculpture of Joan of Arc in Riverside Park, which was dedicated in 1915. In New York, she also made the statues of Jose Marti, which stands at Central Park South and Sixth Avenue; El Cid Campeador, at 155th and Broadway; and Arrabella Huntington (the mother of her husband, Archer), in Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx. There are several replicas of her statue of Joan of Arc around the world, including one in her hometown of Gloucester, Mass., and one in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Hyatt married the philanthropist Archer Huntington in 1923, in an impromptu wedding at her studio of West 12th Street in New York. The couple apparently kept their plans a secret; no one in his family, The Times reported, attended what was a very simple service.
The success of her Joan of Arc design propelled Huntington to new heights, and she went on to become one of America’s most prolific sculptors: she is credited with more than 400 works in more than 200 museums and parks around the world. She used her husband’s wealth and her influence to open the first public sculpture garden in America, Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, S.C.
Anyway, Huntington and her husband lived for a time on East 89th Street in New York, and they had an estate near Bethel, Conn.
She was presented with the Legion d’honneur by France in 1922. She was given an honorary degree by Syracuse University in 1932.
Huntington was born March 10, 1876, and died Oct. 4, 1973. Her last statue was of the Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam, which stands at the entrance of Putnam State Park in Connecticut.
The Times published a story about her on the day before her 86th birthday (March 11), reporting at that time that Huntington still sculpted two to three hours a day. Huntington told The Times she was working on a statue of Abraham Lincoln. “About 80 Lincolns have been done,” she is quoted as saying, “but I think I’ve got a new composition.” That new composition, a statue of Lincoln as a young country lawyer traveling on horseback, can be seen in New Salem State Park in Petersburg, Ill.
Two years later, Huntington gave an interview, part of an oral-history project, to the Smithsonian, which recorded her thoughts on her Joan of Arc:
Well, the whole idea was that I remember reading before she went into battle she had acquired a new sword, that is, a sword that she had found somewhere. And when she went into battle, she unconsciously raised it to heaven to ask the blessing of the Lord on it before she went into battle. That was the idea of the statue, that she was asking the Lord to praise the sword, the bless the sword.
I looked over all that I could find in the Joans, and there were a great many, of course, that has been done there. And that was my idea to get something that was a different thought from the others.
At the time the head of the armor department in the Metropolitan said no Joan had ever been done before that had the correct 15th century armor, which is a very plain armor and also very early armor so it was very difficult to get together a whole set of them. But he managed to at the Metropolitan and there was a young man that he knew who put on the armor and I photographed (him on) one of those imitation horses, wooden horses, they have. So that I could work from photographs because the armor itself was too valuable to take away to the studio or anything of that sort, you see. So with the photographs I was able to get the correct armor.
Personally I don’t see how Joan ever went into battle with that armor on, because I remember — I’ve forgotten the date now — but they had a big pageant in the old Madison Square Garden and they wanted a Joan to lead the procession. I’d done my Joan so they asked me if I wouldn’t do it. They knew I rode a horse, and we managed to get together a hired armor, not of the period but near as possible. I put it on and it was the most uncomfortable thing you ever could imagine to ride in. I don’t know how she ever managed to be active and go into battle with it because it was a very stiff, heavy, uncomfortable thing. I had to be lifted on the horse; I couldn’t get up otherwise.