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Harriet Whitney Frishmuth
Academy Colarossi, Art Students League of New York, Bronze
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth was born in Philadelphia to Frank Benono Frishmuth (1848-1935) and Louise Otto Berens (1853-1924). After her parents' separation, when Harriet was eight years old, she moved to Europe with her mother and her two older sisters. For the next six years the girls enjoyed a Parisian education and summers in Switzerland.
In 1894, Frishmuth returned to Pennsylvania to live with her maternal grandmother in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia.
In 1898, Frishmuth returned to Europe with her mother. They roamed from Dresden to Vienna to Italy to Switzerland. In Switzerland, her mother was recovering from an illness and Frishmuth discovered sculpture. Here she studied with Lucy Brownson Hinton, a student of Launt Thompson in New York and Henri Chapu and John-Baptiste Carpeaux in Paris. Frishmuth moved to Paris in 1900 to enter the short-lived Academie Rodin. She also studied with Henri Desire Gauquie and Jean-Antoine Injalbert at the Academie Colarossi (circa 1901). She spent two years in Berlin studying with Cuno von Uechtritz-Steinkirch before returning to New York. She worked as a studio assistant to Karl Bitter in Weehawken, New Jersey and spent two years studying anatomy at New York's College of Physicians and Surgeons. She also studied at the Art Students League with Hermon MacNeil and Gutzon Borglum.
Early in her career, Frishmuth designed smaller items, such as figural bookends and ashtrays, and also large-scale figures in the style of Daniel Chester French. She was critical of Modern art, instead focusing on female nudes in the Beaux Art style. Her reputation and career grew steadily. In 1908 Frishmuth opened her own studio in Manhattan and exhibited for the first time in the annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design and the Pennnsylvania Academy of Design.
Her signature style was beginning to evolve. Her bronzes were clean, elegantly-lined lyrical depictions of allegorical figures and dancers in vibrant poses. The ballerina Desha Delteil was a favorite model because she could hold demanding poses for long periods of time. Delteil was the model for Frishmuth's famous The Vine (1921), which is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Frishmuth also created marble busts, male figures, animal sculptures, and designed fountains. She made both small casts appropriate for domestic display and larger casts for museums and exhibitions.
Commissions included a portrait of Dr. Abraham Jacobi for the New York County Medical Society in 1910, exhibited at the Academy that same year. She created a marble bust of Woodrow Wilson for the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond in 1924. Although Frishmuth was a renowned artist who exhibited extensively at the Academy and elsewhere between in 1908 through the 1930s, eventually the Depression and changing tastes negatively affected her career. She closed her studio in 1937 and returned to Philadelphia. Ultimately she and her partner, Ruth Talcott, settled in Southbury, Connecticut, where Frishmuth lived until her death in 1980, at the age of ninety-nine.
Harriet Frishmuth won the Elizabeth N. Watrous Gold Medal at the Academy's winter exhibition of 1922 and the Julia A. Show Memorial Prize in 1923. She belonged to the National Sculpture Society, the Architectural League of New York, the Allied Artists of American, the American Federation of the Arts and the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. She became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1929. She exhibited in the Paris Salon, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate International Exposition and the Panama Pacific International Exposition. Her work is found in collections including the Dallas Museum of Art; the New Britain Museum of Art, Connecticut; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Ohio University's Kennedy Museum of Art. Charles Aronson, a patron of Frishmuth's, wrote her biography, Sculptured Hyacinths in 1973.