This year, the Hispanic Society will highlight the female artists, curators, researchers, librarians and writers who have been a part of the Museum & Library throughout its 117-year history, through a brand-new video series, The Women of the Hispanic Society. Join us each month for an in-depth look at the life and work of one of these women.
ANNA HYATT HUNTINGTON
We’re kicking off this brand-new series of videos, The Women of the Hispanic Society, with Anna Hyatt Huntington, a major sculptor of the early 20th century and the second wife of Hispanic Society Founder, Archer M. Huntington.
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in March 1876, Anna Hyatt Huntington’s childhood reflects the intellectual and artistic environment of the leading women in her family. From the beginning, these figures encouraged her artistic aspirations and nurtured a love for nature, which became central to her work. Largely self-taught, Anna studied briefly with Henry Hudson Kitson in Boston and later at the Arts Students League in New York. Recognized as one of the finest American animal sculptors of the day, she created work found throughout the country and around the world, including major museums and private collections.
In 1921, Anna Hyatt met Archer Milton Huntington, founder of the Hispanic Society of America, when he commissioned her to design a medal for the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Two years later, the couple married. Following the marriage, they planned the monumental sculpture on the terrace in front of the Hispanic Society, a vast space splendidly bounded by Beaux-Arts buildings at Broadway and 155th Street. Anna devoted most of her time to this major project. For the majestic equestrian statue at the heart of the program, a larger-than-life El Cid, she placed four life-size male figures at the corners of the heroic knight on horseback and had the base inscribed with lines from Huntington’s translation of the epic Poem of El Cid. Although she had finished modeling the work in 1925, parts of the program were cast later and the ensemble was only completed in the early 1930s. Once installed, the equestrian bronze work immediately became the unofficial symbol of the Hispanic Society.
Notwithstanding public recognition and financial independence, Anna Hyatt suffered the disadvantages of being a woman at her time, especially in terms of the training opportunities and access to art schools. Consequently, many women artists entered associations, collaborated on projects, and shared apartments and studios. Every aspect of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s New York career—professional, critical, and emotional—was sustained by exceptional women.
EMILIA PARDO BAZAN
Born into an aristocratic Galician family with liberal political leanings, Emilia Pardo Bazán received a thorough education that was reinforced by her great love of reading and her tireless desire for knowledge. At the age of sixteen she married the lawyer José Quiroga a similar-minded man, from whom she separated amicably in 1884 to avoid being forced to abandon her literary career. From a very young age, the writer enthusiastically embraced the cultural novelties of the time and actively defended women’s causes. In 1879 she published her first novel, “Pascual López”. Her novels offer a striking image of the Spain of her time in a line clearly indebted to French naturalism. In her masterpiece, “Los pazos de Ulloa” (1886), the writer describes the decadence of a Galician family and their estate, while evoking broader questions of inheritance and civilization.
In 1913, when Emilia Pardo Bazán settled comfortably into the chair for this portrait, the sixty-two-year-old was an internationally well-recognized literary figure. Well dressed in black, albeit simply, she exudes a strong personality. As painted by Sorolla, she stares out with a look that is self-assured, quizzical, and even confrontational. One hand falls over the armrest while the other hand is tucked in against her hip, suggesting a combination of nonchalance and determination completely in keeping with contemporary accounts. Sorolla does not diminish the sitter’s girth but rather imbues it with character so that this portrait must be considered one of the most successful images of Pardo Bazán.