The Art Students League of New York, 215 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
Académie Colarossi, 10 Rue de la Grande Chaumière, 75006 Paris, France
Woodlawn Cemetery, 4199 Webster Ave, Bronx, NY 10470
Malvina Cornell Hoffman (June 15, 1885 – July 10, 1966)[a] was an American sculptor and author, well known for her life-size bronze sculptures of people. She also worked in plaster and marble. Hoffman created portrait busts of working-class people and significant individuals. She was particularly known for her sculptures of dancers, such as Anna Pavlova. Her sculptures of culturally diverse people, entitled "Hall of the Races of Mankind", was a popular permanent exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. It was featured at the Century of Progress International Exposition at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933.
She was commissioned to execute commemorative monuments and was awarded many prizes and honors, including a membership to the National Sculpture Society. In 1925, she was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member and became a full Academician in 1931. Many of her portraits of individuals are among the collection of the New York Historical Society. She maintained a salon, a social gathering of artistic and personal acquaintances, at her Sniffen Court studio for many years.
She was highly skilled in foundry techniques, often casting her own works. Hoffman published a definite work on historical and technical aspects of bronze casting, Sculpture Inside and Out, in 1939.
Malvina Hoffman was born in New York City, the fourth of six children of the concert pianist and composer, Richard Hoffman, and Fidelia Marshall (Lamson) Hoffman. She was named after a maternal aunt, Malvina Helen (Lamson) Cornell, who would later survive the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Her mother, also a pianist, presided over her education at home until she was 10 years of age. The Hoffman's regularly entertained artists and musicians in their home. As a young girl, she met Swami Vivekananda when he lived and taught in New York City, and several of her later sculptures, like that of Sri Ramakrishna, are located at the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.[b]
Hoffman attended Veltin School for Girls, Chapin, and Brearley private schools. While at Brearley, she took evening classes at the Woman's School for Applied Design and the Art Students League of New York.
She studied painting with John White Alexander in 1906, and also with Harper Pennington. Hoffman developed her skill as an artist during her studies with George Grey Barnard, Herbert Adams, and Gutzon Borglum. She worked as an assistant to sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor at his MacDougal Street studio in Greenwich Village in 1907. In 1908, Hoffman traveled to Paris with Katharine Rhoades and Marion H. Beckett and studied art there.
She made a bust of her father, her first finished sculpture, in 1909, two weeks prior to his death. It was exhibited at the National Academy the following year. Also in 1910, she won an honorable mention for a sculpture of her future husband, Samuel Grimson, at the Paris Salon. Hoffman gravitated towards sculpture due to the artistic freedom she felt when creating a three-dimensional work of art.
After her father's death in 1910, Hoffman moved to Europe with her mother. They first visited London, where they attended the ballet of Alexander Glazunov's Autumn Bacchanale. Hoffman was inspired by the combination of motion and control exhibited by Mikhail Mordkin and Anna Pavlova. Mother and daughter visited Italy before moving to Paris. She worked as a studio assistant for Janet Scudder. During the nights she studied at Académie Colarossi. She studied with Emanuele Rosales and after five unsuccessful attempts, she eventually was accepted as a student by Auguste Rodin. She caught his attention when she quoted a poem that he attempted to remember by Alfred de Musset. During their lessons, he advised her, "Do not be afraid of realism". She made a trip to Manhattan in 1912 to dissect bodies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. From Rosales and Rodin, she learned about bronze casting, chasing, and finishing at foundries. The Hoffman women lived in Paris until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
She was married to an Englishman, Samuel Bonarius Grimson, on June 4, 1924. Grimson was injured by mustard gas and phosgene during World War I, and his career as a concert violist ended when his hands were crushed during an accident with a truck during the war. After the war, he collected antique paintings and instruments. He also invented a tube for a color television. He traveled with her during her search for authentic indigenous models for the anthropological series. Hoffman and Grimson divorced in 1936, some speculated that it was due to an affair that she had with the ballerina Anna Pavlova. He married Bettina Warburg, the daughter of Nina Loeb and Paul Warburg, in 1942. She was 16 years his junior. Grimson died in 1955.
Hoffman befriended sculptor Romaine Brooks, writer Gertrude Stein, and ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. She held costume parties and balls in her studio, which were reported in the city's society pages. She often spent the summers in a Hartsdale cottage provided to her by Paul Warburg.
On July 10, 1966, Malvina Cornell Hoffman died of a heart attack in her studio in Manhattan, which had been purchased by the philanthropist Mary Williamson Averell and provided to Hoffman for a low-priced rent.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Yale University, New Haven, CT
Bush House, London
BACK TO HOME PAGE