As a kid looking at the monumental sculptures by Anna Hyatt Huntington, I was in awe.  Reading now about the life and achievements of Mrs. Huntington,   I realize the legacy of generosity.   While Anna Huntington was known for her animal sculptures, the land itself was the essence of her inspiration.  It was important for land to be preserved and unspoiled for native flora and fauna.  With her husband, they founded twenty museums, several wildlife preserves,  gifted 15,000 acres of forest near Newcomb, New York and 800 acres for the development of Huntington State park in Connecticut to be used for walking, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, fishing, boating and nature study.  For this girl, it was Mrs. Huntington’s vision of Brookgreen Gardens that keeps giving in abundance an appreciation for grand ole oaks draped with Spanish moss, low-country swampland and pure inspiration from sculptor’s around the country.

Tuberculosis insisted that Anna find better climate for working.  The Huntington’s discovered coastal property in upper Georgetown County, South Carolina where they built the winter home, Atalaya (meaning ‘Watch Tower’ in Spanish).  Her Husband, Archer used his intimate knowledge of Spanish and Moorish architecture to design ‘Atalaya’.  The building of Atalaya and development of Brookgreen Gardens created work for many locals in an area hard hit by the depression.

The history of the land, variety of birds, majestic ocean, massive oaks, salt marsh, wildlife and lagoons made it impossible for Mr. & Mrs. Huntington to use the land simply as a winter home for sculpting.

Brookgreen Gardens began as a vision for outdoor exhibition in a natural setting; A backdrop for Anna’s sculptures and other American sculptor’s.  During the Depression, the acquisitions made by the Huntington’s for the gardens were a gracious relief for struggling artists.  In the first six years, they added 197 sculptures.   Brookgreen now has over 1000 works dating from the 1800’s to the present and is a National Historic landmark of American Sculpture.

Anna Hyatt Huntington

At 82, she continued to climb 10 foot ladders to work on her immense sculptures.  She gave up her studio at 96 and died a year later.

I have a few favorite pieces in Brookgreen and narrowed it down to two for this blog.  Mrs. Huntington preferred animals over figure.  She said “Figure work is very dull.  All figures are so alike and only the pose varies them.”  I have to disagree.   In appreciation for the gift of Brookgreen,  I selected ‘The Faun’ by Leo Lentelli.  This figure for me symbolizes a protector of the forest around him, much the same as she was.

“Now I have Monkeys chattering in the studio, the peafowl screaming in the yard and the bears crawling on the other side.  As a sculptor I call it an embarrassment of riches but others may not think so…”  Anna Hyatt Huntington


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