Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Malvina Hoffman papers
Date (inclusive): 1807-1882, 1897-1984, undated
150 Linear Feet
(216 boxes, 9 flat file folders, 4 rolls)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
A nearly complete archive of letters,
manuscripts, photographs, diaries, drawings, and films documents Malvina Hoffman's life and
her career as a sculptor and writer.
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Language: Collection material is in
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
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
Sculpture Inside and Out (1939), an instructional
guide to sculpture. In 1943 she published an account of her travels for the Hall of Man
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.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Malvina Hoffman papers, 1897-1984, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no.
Acquired in 1985.
An inventory of the collection was taken in 1986 by Tim Netsch, and again in 1990 by Miriam
Gaber. The 16mm films were reviewed by Mary Fenton and Jennifer Young, who compiled a
summary of the contents of some of the films. In 1992, Beth Guynn processed the
correspondence, manuscripts and portions of the glass plates. The scrapbooks, glass plates
and several large portfolios were processed by Teresa Morales in 1996. Julie Rosenberg
completed the processing and cataloguing of the collection in June 1997. The finding aid was
revised in 2016.
Scope and Content of Collection
This comprehensive archive relates to Hoffman's life and her career as a sculptor and a
Correspondence traces Hoffman's relationships with friends, family members, and clients as
well as the development of her commissions and publications. Manuscripts, edited drafts, and
published copies representing all of Hoffman's books, articles and lectures are accompanied
by publicity and endorsements. A large portion of the collection consists of photo albums,
scrapbooks and diaries documenting Hoffman's work, travels and personal life.
Films produced by Hoffman, and others, are present, with footage of other artists at work
and dance rituals of the world. Especially significant are the photo albums, travel logs and
anthropological notes used to produce Hoffman's best known commission, the 104 sculptures of
the "Races of Mankind" created for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago
Drawings, sketchbooks and photographic studies provide an intimate perspective of the
artist's creative process, particularly the "Bacchanale" dance reliefs (1914), and monuments
built for the Bush House (1924), the New York World's Fair (1939), and Epinal Memorial
Cemetery (1948-1960). These are supported by exhibition catalogs and clippings of reviews. A
small collection of photographs, catalogs and correspondence also reveal Hoffman's
friendships with artists Auguste Rodin, Ivan Mestrovic, Anna Pavlova, Jean Jacques Lemordant
and Alexandre Iacovleff.
The collection includes photographs, motion picture films, videotapes, a sound recording,
microfilm, copper plates, glass and acetate negatives, as well as drawings, letters,
manuscripts and printed materials.
The collection is organized in 10 series:
Series I: Correspondence and personal papers, 1909-1968;
Series II: Datebooks, 1926-1966;
Series III: Manuscripts,
publications and lectures, circa 1913-1965;
Series IV: Periodicals, clippings and exhibition catalogs, circa
Photographs, negatives, and copper printing plates, circa 1910-1965;
Series VI: Videocassettes and sound
cassettes, circa 1924-1939, 1961;
Series VII: Travel diaries, postcards, scrapbooks and memorabilia,
Sketchbooks, drawings, and photographs, 1901-1964;
Series IX: Awards, honorary degrees, 1915-1957;
Series X: Motion picture films and
negatives, circa 1910-1966.
Subjects - Names
Grimson, S. B. (Samuel B.)
Lemordant, Jean Julian
Subjects - Corporate Bodies
Bush House (London, England)
Epinal American Cemetery (France)
Field Museum of Natural History
New York World's Fair (1939-1940)
Subjects - Topics
World War, 1914-1918 -- Civilian relief
Sculpture, French -- 20th century
Sculpture, American -- 20th century
Subjects - Places
Chicago (Ill.) -- Exhibitions
Genres and Forms of Material
Motion pictures (visual works)
Dance International (1937)
Lemordant, Jean Julian
Hocking, William Ernest
Field Museum of Natural History