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The following biography and installation list was provided by Nancy S. Weyant, Coordinator of Reference Services of Harvey A. Andruss Library, Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
Nancy Cox-McCormack was an American sculptor who worked principally in bronze and terra-cotta, specializing in portrait sculpture. Between the years 1910 and 1953, she worked productively, modeling over forty portrait busts, one full-figure portrait sculpture, several bas-relief portraits, an altarpiece and four abstract sculptures.
Her portrait sculptures included a broad range of nationally and internationally- known figures such as Italian Premier Benito Mussolini; American poet Ezra Pound; Indian political activist Mahatma Gandhi; American attorney Clarence Darrow; and American social activist Jane Addams;as well as educators, regional political figures, and personal friends.
During her lifetime, her work was exhibited at such prestigious sites as the Chicago Institute of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., the Jacques Seligmann galleries in both New York and Paris, the Beaux Arts in Rome, the National Sculptors Society in New York, and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Nancy Cox-McCormack was born Nancy Mal Cox in Nashville, Tennessee on August 15, 1885. When she was three years old, her mother died of tuberculosis. In that same year, Nancy contracted polio, a disease which rendered her paralyzed for a considerable time and which continued to affect her health to varying degrees for the rest of her life. When she was fourteen years old, her father was killed in a carriage accident. As an orphan, she was briefly enrolled in a boarding school in Arkansas by her stepmother but returned to Nashville for health reasons.
In 1900, she entered Wards Seminary in Nashville, where she learned to work in pastels and watercolors. She also came under the tutelage of the painter Mrs. Willie Betty Newman. Before returning to Nashville, Mrs. Newman had spent forty years in Europe, where she had studied under the academician Adolphe-William Bourguereau, was recognized as one of the foremost women painters, exhibiting in several Salons and winning numerous honors. According to Cox-McCormack's memoirs, Mrs. Newman played a significant role in developing her artistic values and appreciation for "accurate drawing."
In 1903, Nancy married Mark McCormack in what she described "as one of those escape marriages" from which, in turn, she escaped in 1909. The following year she moved to St. Louis and enrolled in Washington University School of Fine Arts. There, she studied sculpture under Victor Holm and learned the process of casting in plaster at the studio of Walter Bringhurst.
In 1910, she moved to Chicago where she enrolled in the sculpture life-class taught by Charles Mulligan at the Chicago Art Institute. It was Charles Mulligan who encouraged Nancy Cox-McCormack to enter a competition to sculpt a portrait of Edward Ward Cormack, an assassinated Tennessee senator. She won that competition, thereby launching a long professional career as a portrait sculptor.
Nancy Cox-McCormack worked in Chicago from 1911 to 1920. Her reminiscences of that decade, first written in letters to her close Chicago friend, playwright Alice Gerstenberg, and later re worked as a memoir deposited at Smith College, provide an entertaining narrative of her interactions with many of Chicago's socially and culturally prominent residents and document the sculpting of over twenty-five pieces. During this period, she also wrote a children's book, Peeps, The Really Truly Sunshine Fairy
that was published by P.F. Volland in 1918.
In 1921, Cox-McCormack left America for Europe, traveling first to France and Germany and, ultimately, to Rome where she opened a studio in 1922. While in France, she became close friends with Ezra Pound and his wife, Dorothy Shakespeare, both of whom she had met in America. Her arrival in Rome coincided with a period of significant political unrest that culminated with the emergence of the Fascist party as a force with which to contend. The principle leader of the Fascists was the enigmatic Benito Mussolini. In 1923, she received a commission from the Italian American Society of Philadelphia to sculpt a bust of Mussolini.
The years between 1922 and 1924 were exceptionally productive ones. From March 15 - April 1, 1924, she exhibited eight sculptures in Paris at the Galeries Jacques Seligmann in Paris, three of which had been exhibited at the Salon of 1923 and three of which were exhibited at the 1923-24 Exposition Biennale Internationale des Beaux-Arts in Rome. These, along with select others, were subsequently exhibited at Seligmann's New York gallery, at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Chicago Art Institute, and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
After spending a brief period of time in Spain, during which she sculpted a portrait bust of the dictator Primo de Rivera, Cox-McCormack returned to the United States. Her health was suffering from overwork. She spent the next few years in New York and in Westtown, Pennsylvania writing her memoirs, and a book, Pleasant Days in Spain.
She became interested in Mahatma Gandhi and made the decision to attempt to secure permission to sculpt him, and in 1931, in possession of a letter of introduction to Gandhi, she traveled to London. During a five-week period that she recounts in an article published in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly
, she completed what was to be her last portrait bust of a world-famous figure.
During the next eight years, she sculpted a small number of portrait busts, principally of university figures, and a bas-relief memorial medallion of Jane Addams, whose first casting is in Hull House in Chicago. She continued to work on her memoirs and traveled within the United States, speaking on her experiences about sculpting "strong men."
In 1939, Cox-McCormack married Charles Thomas Cushman, an employee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In time, they settled in Ithaca, New York. They traveled extensively, spending sixteen months in Italy in 1952-54 and returned to Europe for an extended tour in 1961. When in Florence in 1953, she sculpted a bas relief medallion of her husband. Her last sculpture project was the design of her husband's tombstone, following his death in 1962.
Nancy Cox-McCormack died in Ithaca, New York on February 17, 1967. She willed her personal castings of the bronze busts of her most famous subjects, Benito Mussolini and Mahatma Gandhi, to Cornell University's Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, along with a portrait bust of Lydia Rismondo, the woman through whom she obtained an introduction to Mussolini, and a copy of the Jane Addams medallion. She deposited her papers in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College with copies at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. She is buried in Sherburne, New York in the West Hill Cemetery.
There is no full biography of Nancy Cox-McCormack, but brief biographical entries appear in some half-dozen publications. Nancy Cox-McCormack wrote newspaper articles, periodical articles and numerous unpublished memoirs on her experiences sculpting famous men of the twentieth century. Her memoir of her friendship with Ezra Pound was edited and published by Lawrence Rainey in volume 102 of the Swanee Review
. Dr. Rainey has also included a chapter on the Pound/ Cox-McCormack connection in his book, Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture
, published in 1998 by Yale University Press.
Following is a list of dated works of Nancy Cox McCormack that are Installed in Public Structures and Owned by Libraries. Exhibition information is given where applicable
"Harmony" (sculpture). Bronze with terra cotta copies. Exhibited in January 1913 Chicago Artists Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. A terra-cotta copy is in the Cheekwood Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
"George Woodruff" and "Frederick Woodruff" (bas-relief portrait). Bronze. Memorial plaque. Exhibited in 1914 exhibition at the Palette and Chisel Club. Subsequently installed in the First National Bank of Joliet, IL.
"Woman in Civics" and "Woman in the Home" (cement cast bas-relief sculpture). Installed in the exterior of the Women's Club, Rockford, IL.
"Colonel George C. Rankin" (bas-relief). Bronze. Memorial for World War I hero. Inscribed "A MEMORIAL ERECTED BY HIS FRIENDS". Installed in the Court House in Monmouth, Illinois.
"In Memoriam" (bas-relief). Bronze. Honors members, sons of members and employees of the Chicago Athletic Association who died in World War I. Installed in 1921.
"Ezra Pound" (life mask). Bronze. American poet. Exhibited in 1923 Spring Salon in Paris, the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in Paris and New York, the National Gallery in Washington, D. C., the Art Institute of Chicago and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Currently located in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
"Ezra Pound" (desk-size painted plaster portrait bust). Currently located in the Rare Book Collection, State University of New York at Buffalo.
"Eunice Tietjens" (bas- relief medaillon). Plastercast. Poet/Editor of Petry Magazine. Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois
"Giacomo Boni" (portrait bust). Bronze. Archaeologist. Exhibited at 1923 Fall Salon of the Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts in Rome, the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in Paris and New York, the National Gallery in Washington, D. C., the Art Institute of Chicago and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Two castings, originally placed in Rome at the Palazzo dei Conservatori and in Venice in the mayor's office in the Doges Palace. Roman copy currently in the Museo di Roma.
"Lauro de Bosis" (desk-size portrait bust). Bronze. Italian poet and classicist. Exhibited at the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in Paris and New York, the National Gallery in Washington, D. C., the Art Institute of Chicago and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Currently located at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
"Lilliana de Bosis" (bas relief). Bronze. Close friend of Nancy Cox-McCormack and mother of Lauro de Bosis. Exhibited at the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in Paris and New York. Currently located at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
"Benito Mussolini"(portrait bust), Bronze. Premier of Italy. Four castings made. Documented as originally placed as follows: one copy to Benito Mussolini; one copy sold at the Paris Galerie Jacques Seligmann to August C. Gurnee, who planned to donate it to the Petit Palais; the commissioned copy went to the Philadelphia Italian Cultural Club Cenacolo Leonardo da Vinci which presented it to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and one was sold to Chicago lawyer, Max Pam. Exhibited at 1923 Fall Salon of the Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts in Rome, the 1924 Spring Salon in Paris, the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in Paris and New York, the National Gallery in Washington, D. C., the Art Institute of Chicago and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. One casting is currently at the Howard F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Location of others is unknown.
"Lydia Rismondo" (portrait bust). Terra cotta. Exhibited at the1923 Fall Salon of the Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts in Rome, the 1924 Spring Salon in Paris, the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in Paris and New York, the National Gallery in Washington, D. C., the Art Institute in Chicago and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Currently located at the Howard F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
"Edward Ward Carmack" (heroic full-figure sculpture). Bronze. Replacement version executed in Rome and cast in Naples. Originally installed in the front of the Capitol building of the State of Tennessee, Nashville, Tennessee. Relocated to the side grounds of the Capitol in 1959.
"Hiram Mills Perkins" and "Caroline Barkdull Perkins Memorial" (bas-relief wall plaque). Bronze. Professor of Astronomy and his wife. Exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, D. C. Installed in the rotunda of the observatory at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio.
"Craven Laycock" (portrait bust). Bronze. Dean of Dartmouth College. Originally placed in George F. Baker Memorial Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.
"Charles Haubiel" (portrait bust). Bronze. Composer/Pianist/Musicologist. Professor of Music, New York University. The first casting was acquired by the subject. A second casting, after being widely exhibited, was donated in 1947 by Cox-McCormack to Ohio State University to be placed with the subject's manuscripts in the Ohioana Library, State University of Ohio. According to the Web site for Washington State University's libraries, a bust of the Haubiel by Nancy Cox-McCormack was included with a collection of Haubiel papers donated to them.
"Mahatma Gandhi" (portrait bust). Bronze. Three castings are known to have been made. The casting in the sculptor's possession at the time of her death is at Howard F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
"Dr. Laurence M. Gould" (portrait bust). Bronze. Explorer - Byrd Expedition/President of Carleton College. Originally placed in Alumni Hall, University of Michigan.
"Rudulph Evans" (portrait bust). Bronze. American sculptor, best known for his heroic figure of Thomas Jefferson in the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D. C. Originally placed in the Academy building of the National Institute of Arts & Letters, 653 West 155th Street, New York, NY
"Jane Addams Memorial" (bas relief plaque). Bronze. Primary installation at Jane Addams' Hull House, Chicago, Illinois. A second casting in the private collection of Mrs. Ann Cushman, Cox-McCormack's step-daughter-in-law and literary executor of her papers deposited in the Sophia Smith College at Smith College Later reduced and cast as a medallion. Struck by the Medallic Art Company. Known copies of the medallion at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, IL; and the Peace Collection at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.
"Mrs. Joseph T. (Louise de Koven) Bowen" (bas relief sculpture). Bronze. Close friend of Jane Addams and President of the Hull-House Association. One casting in Neilson Library, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
"Lola Ridge" (death mask). Plaster. American poet. Included with the Lola Ridge papers deposited in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.
"Charles Upson Clark" (bas relief). Bronze. Professor of Medieval Latin. Included in the 1952 National Sculpture Society bas-relief exhibition. Acquired by Yale University. Originally placed in the Classics Building. Currently in Yale University's Sterling Library, New Haven, Connecticut.
Of her association with the artist, Nancy Cox-McCormack, Weyant wrote
that: "I knew about her because she was a friend of my great, great
aunt, Ethel Fairmont Snyder Beebe. They met in Chicago and continued to
be friends for the rest of their lives. I have correspondence from
Cox-McCormack to my Aunt written just a few months before she died and
some of my aunt's letters to her are among the papers she deposited at
Smith College. My sources of information are drawn principally from
her memoirs and from her lengthy correspondence with Chicago playwright
Alice Gerstenberg, all of which is located at Smith with copies at the
Tennessee State Library and Archives. Tennessee had microfilmed what
they own and I purchased a copy to have as a resource for my research."