Born in New York City in 1887, Malvina Hoffman was a portrait sculptor of pieces that expressed the fluid movement of dancers and lofty human values. She became especially noted for her hall-of-fame portraits including Paderewski, Pavlova, Wendell Wilkie and Katharine Cornell. Many of her pieces she carved in stone, and some of them were enormous in scale including war monuments. Her masterpiece is considered to be The Races of Man, done in 1933, commissioned by the Marshall Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. It had one-hundred five separate pieces, cast in bronze, depicting people from diverse cultures.
She grew up in an art-oriented environment in Manhattan where her father was a pianist and music filled the house. She attended the Brearley School and took private art classes, first studying painting with John White Alexander. Changing to sculpture, she did her first work in 1909, a portrait bust of her father who died that year leaving the family in financial straits. However, his portrait was accepted for the National Academy of Design’s annual exhibition and launched her career.
She studied with Herbert Adams and Gutzon Borglum in New York and in Paris in 1910 with Auguste Rodin from whom she learned naturalism and whose doorstep she sat on until he agreed to see her. In Paris, she associated with numerous leading intellectuals including Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, and Anna Pavlova, and her bronze sculptures of Pavlova, Russian ballet star, won her much attention and many commissions. Hoffman died in New York City in 1966.
From AskArt Archives