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 Harriet Whitney Frishmuth  (1880 - 1980)

About: Harriet Whitney Frishmuth


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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut      Known for: nude female figure sculpture

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BIOGRAPHY for Harriet Whitney Frishmuth
1880 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
1980 (Waterbury, Connecticut)

New York/Connecticut

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nude female figure sculpture

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Painters of Nudes
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Women Artists
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Beth Crader, who knew the artist well for the last two years of her life and describes that time period.

"Harriet and Ruth (her partner) moved to CT, and after a short period of time Ruth had to place Harriet in a nursing home.  After about a year, Ruth was forced to sell off pieces of the art to pay for the nursing home bills.  I was physically present when one of the paintings was taken off the wall to be crated and sent to a buyer.

Harriet died in 1980, was cremated, and Ruth carried on for a few years until she herself died.  The last few months of Harriet's life she would sit and read out loud.  If you changed the book on her she would continue in whatever language the book was written.  Harriet and Ruth were wonderful women and I was fortunate to get to know them.

Fear not every day, for angels hover near.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Philadelphia, Harriet Frishmuth became one of the ground-breaking female sculptors in the early 20th century.

She had a strong academic training, going to Switzerland as a young person with her family and receiving education there.  At age 19, she moved to Paris where she studied with Auguste Rodin. Returning to the United States, she studied in New York City at the Art Students League in New York and at the College of Physicians, where she learned dissection.

From 1913, she lived and worked in New York City at 152 E 36th Street in a stable she and her mother converted to dwellings, now an historical landmark.  Some of her models danced to victrola music so she could capture lightening movement.

Paul Sternberg Sr., Art by American Women

Biography from Heritage Auctions (
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth was born on September 17, 1880 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A student of such renowned artists as Auguste Rodin and Gutzon Borglum, Frishmuth’s reputation and career grew steadily throughout the first several decades of the twentieth century, with exhibitions at the National Academy of Design, the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Salon in Paris, the Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940) and the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.
Her favorite models were dancers, especially Desha Delteil - immortalized in Frishmuth’s most famous work, The Vine  - a model particularly popular with artists for her ability to hold difficult poses for long periods of time.  The final exhibits of Frishmuth’s work took place in New York City in 1929, but she remained active in the art world for many years following.  Frishmuth passed away in 1980 at the age of 99.
A proponent of the Beaux Arts style - Frishmuth was exceptionally critical of modern art, often calling it “spiritless”  - her works can now be seen in some of the world’s leading museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Dallas Museum of Art, and Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art.
“Many of the Frishmuth bronzes in our current auction come from the The Estate of Charles N. and Josephine R. Aronson,” said Dr. Edmund P. Pillsbury, Chairman and Managing Director of Fine and Decorative Arts for Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries.  “Aronson, the founder of the Aronson Machine Company and the designer of the Aronson Estate in Arcade, New York, is also the author of Sculptured Hyacinths (1973), the first serious text on the life and work of Harriet Frishmuth.  He is also the founder of the Frishmuth Gallery, and the pieces included in this outstanding collection include several rare casts, Peter Pan and Pou Pou specifically, that have never before been offered at public auction, as well as beautiful fountains, such as Playdays and Reflections, and several small sculptures, including Desha and Star.”
“One of the most important aspects of this collection,” Pillsbury continued, “is that many of the pieces from the Aronson Estate were obtained directly from the artist herself, such as Pou Pou, which was the artist’s personal cast of her pet cat.  Indeed, many of these pieces had an intense personal meaning to Frishmuth.  For example, in 1980, Ruth Talcott, Frishmuth’s longtime partner, donated a cast of Peter Pan to the New Britain Museum of American Art in the artist’s memory.  The selection of this piece - originally commissioned in memory of Frishmuth's cousin, Florence Frishmuth Craig, by her husband Frank Craig - as a memorial to Frishmuth shows just how important a piece Peter Pan was to the artist and those who knew her well.”

Biography from Kramer Gallery, Inc.:
As a teenager Harriet Frishmuth studied sculpture in Paris classes (with critiques by Auguste Rodin) and later enrolled at the Academie Colarossi there. On her return to the United States she studied with Gutzon Borglum at the Art Students League, served an apprenticeship with Karl Bitter, and opened her own studio in New York in 1908. Working to popular and critical acclaim in the 1910s and 1920s, Frishmuth won awards in exhibits such as the Panama Pacific International Exposition and the National Academy’s annual shows.

While Frishmuth was an accomplished sculptor of portraits and animals, her typical artwork is a slim, young female nude, often in a dancing or stretching pose. Frishmuth cast her nubile figures in varying sizes, for home display as well as for museum exhibitions and for fountains in parks and gardens. On a small scale, she also designed bookends and ashtrays in bronze with her characteristic sleek figures.

A collection of Frishmuth papers and related materials is at the Special Collections Research Center of the Syracuse University Library.

Aronson, Charles N., SCULPTURED HYACINTHS (1973)
Conner, Janis and Joel Rosencranz: REDISCOVERIES IN AMERICAN SCULPTURE: STUDIO WORKS 1893-1939 (1989)

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