Hoffman, Malvina, 1887-1966

Alternative names
Birth 1887-06-15
Death 1966-07-10
English, French

Biographical notes:

American sculptor and writer who studied with Auguste Rodin in the second decade of the 20th century.

From the description of Malvina Hoffman papers, 1897-1984. (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 78086370

American sculptor.

From the description of Autograph letter signed, dated : New York, "Easter" [n.y.], to Mr. [Harry Harkness] Flagler. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270666321

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Paris, to Mr. Rosse, 1936 Aug. 25. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270871020

Sculptor, painter, writer; New York, N.Y. Full name Malvina Cornell Hoffman; married name Mrs. Samuel Bonaries Grimson.

From the description of Malvina Hoffman letters, 1934-1937. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122576732

Malvina Hoffman (1887-1966) was a sculptor, painter, and writer from New York, N.Y.

Full name Malvina Cornell Hoffman; married name Mrs. Samuel Bonaries Grimson.

From the description of Malvina Hoffman letters and photographs, circa 1925-1937. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 744425651


Malvina Hoffman was born in Manhattan on June 15 1885 to Richard Hoffman, a well-known pianist and music teacher, and Fidelia Lamson Hoffman.

In 1998 she studied at the Brearley School, attending evening art classes at the Woman's School of Applied Designs, and the Art Students League of New York. Between 1904-1096, she studied painting and drawing with Harper Pennington and John White Alexander and sculpture with Herbert Adams, George Gray Bernard and Gutzon Borglum.

In 1909-1910 she produced her first portrait of her father and traveled to Paris to study with Rodin. She also worked as a studio assistant to sculptress Janet Scudder while living in Paris. Her first dance sculpture, "Russian Dancers" (1911), is inspired by Anna Pavlova's performance of "Bacchanale" in London. In the spring of 1911, portraits of Richard Hoffman and William Astor Chandler are accepted to the Paris Salon. Hoffman next studied anatomy at the Cornell University College of Physicians, and began the models for "Bacchanale," a frieze of 25 panels that took her ten years to complete. Her "Russian Dancers" was exhibited at the National Academy of Design in this period.

Hoffman returned to Paris in 1912 to work with Rodin. Two more dance figures, "Bacchanale Russe" and "L'Après-midi d'un faune" (inspired by a performance of Vaslav Nijinsky) were completed this year.

In 1914-1915 Hoffman had her first solo exhibition, held at the East 34th St. studio in Manhattan. While in London for an exhibition at Leicester Galleries, she supervised the installation of Rodin's works at Grosvenor House. She also assisted in the cataloging of Rodin's drawings for the Musée Rodin at the Hôtel Biron, Paris. During this period, Hoffman collaborated in the organization of Appuix Aux Artistes to support models and artists unemployed as a result of the onset of World War I.

She returned to New York in the Fall and established a permanent residence and studio at Sniffen Court in Murray Hill, Manhattan. Produces numerous photographs and drawings of Pavlova with Andreas Pavley posing for "Bacchanale." Exhibitions of her dance groups and lithographs were held at the Brooks Reed Gallery in Boston and the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco.

In 1919 she was in a group show at the Whitney Studio Club, and returned to Paris to assist in the installation of Rodin's work in the Musèe Rodin. Her "Bacchanale Russe" was placed in the Luxembourg Gardens this year, and she undertook a seven week tour of Yugoslavia in August of 1919, as a representative of the American Relief Commission.

In 1920-1921 she completed "Offrande" (based on Paul Verlaine poem), "La Péri" and "The Sacrifice," a memorial to American Ambassador Robert Bacon for Harvard Memorial Chapel. She resumed work on "Bacchanale" with Pavlova and Novikoff, and had her first one-woman exhibition at Ferargil Galleries in May, 1921.

In 1924 she completed "Bacchanale," and married her childhood friend Samuel Grimson. Also in 1924, American businessman Irving Bush commissioned Hoffman's most significant architectural sculpture for the Bush House in London, commemorating Anglo-American friendship.

In 1925 Hoffman traveled to Zagreb to study equestrian sculpture with Ivan Mestrovic, and filmed him at work on his "American Indian Groups" for Chicago's Grant Park. She moved to Villa Asti in Paris with Grimson and had a major exhibition at the Grand Central Art Galleries in December, 1928.

In 1929 Stanley Field commissioned Hoffman to create sculptures of "The Races of Mankind" for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. She traveled for eight months photographing, drawing and taking anthropological data of models for ethnographic "portraits." She produced 104 sculptures, first exhibited in 1932 at the Musée d'Ethnographie at the Palais du Trocadero before permanent installation at the Field Museum. Hoffman became a celebrity with the opening of the Hall of Man on June 6, 1933,

She divorced Grimson in 1936 and returned to Sniffen Court. Her ethnographic sculptures were exhibited in several venues including the Dance International Exposition (1937). Her "International Dance Fountain" was installed at the New York World's Fair, 1939. In 1939 she published Sculpture Inside and Out (1939), an instructional guide to sculpture. In 1943 she published an account of her travels for the Hall of Man commission, Heads and Tales .

Between 1948-1950, Hoffman worked on a World War II memorial for Epinal Memorial Cemetery in France. In 1955 she produced relief panels for the Joslin Hospital, Boston. In 1965 she published her autobiography, Yesterday is Tomorrow . Malvina Hoffman died July 19, 1966 at Sniffen Court, Manhattan.

From the guide to the Malvina Hoffman papers, 1897-1984, (The Getty Research Institute)


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  • Sculpture, French--20th century
  • Sculpture, American--20th century
  • Ethnology
  • Art, American
  • Painters
  • Art--American (?)--Reproductions
  • Anthropology
  • World War, 1914-1918--Civilian relief
  • Women sculptors
  • Sculptors
  • Bronze founding


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  • Chicago (Ill.) (as recorded)
  • Chicago (Ill.) (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)