Women Sculpting Women

SUArt Galleries

February 5- March 15, 2015


Before the 20th century, women were widely recognized as the subjects of paintings and sculpture throughout history, yet few female artists were regarded as equal counterparts to their male colleagues. In the late 19th to the mid-20th century, a number of prolific female sculptors emerged in the art world. Helen Beling, Doris Caesar, Laura Gardin Fraser, Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, Malvina Hoffman, and Anna Hyatt Huntington became highly respected for their work in a time when women faced many obstacles to achieve recognition and support. Women Sculpting Women is a selection of 14 works from the Syracuse University Art Collection that illustrate the achievements these artists made through their own representations of the female form.

Each artist had a distinct style, yet they share many similarities. Caesar, Huntington, Hoffman, Fraser, and Beling all studied at the Art Students League, which has maintained a long tradition of gender equality since its founding in 1875. They each studied with venerable sculptors including Auguste Rodin, Gutzon Borglum, Hermon MacNeil, and George Gray Barnard. Many shared an interest in human anatomy and their skills in modelling and rendering detail are clearly evident. Frishmuth, Hoffman, and Huntington all worked, studied, or traveled throughout Europe, a common practice for artists during this period.

The artist’s impressive training served as a foundation that helped in developing their own personal style. Fraser, Huntington, and Frishmuth’s styles were more academically inclined. Their subjects, such as Frishmuth’s Bacchante, Fraser’s Bust of a Young Woman, and Huntington’s Diana of the Chase present female figures that are smooth, exact, proportional, and somewhat idealized. Conversely, the work of Beling, Caesar, and Hoffman tend to be more abstract, with elongated proportions, rough surfaces, and varying media. The visual contrasts illustrate how differently the beauty of the female form can be imagined in captivating ways.


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