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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biography
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Malvina Hoffman papers
    Date (inclusive): 1807-1882, 1897-1984, undated
    Number: 850042
    Creator/Collector: Hoffman, Malvina
    Physical Description: 150 Linear Feet (216 boxes, 9 flat file folders, 4 rolls)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: 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.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English


    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.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Malvina Hoffman papers, 1897-1984, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 850042.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 1985.

    Processing History

    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 writer.
    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 (1929-1933).
    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.

    Arrangement note

    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 1920-1966; Series V: 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, 1898-1966; Series VIII: Sketchbooks, drawings, and photographs, 1901-1964; Series IX: Awards, honorary degrees, 1915-1957; Series X: Motion picture films and negatives, circa 1910-1966.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Grimson, S. B. (Samuel B.)
    Pavlova, Anna
    Mestrovíc, Ivan
    Moore, Marianne
    Rodin, Auguste
    Iacovleff, Alexandre
    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
    Bronze founding

    Subjects - Places

    Chicago (Ill.) -- Exhibitions

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Journals (accounts)
    Motion pictures (visual works)
    Photographic prints
    Photographs, Original


    Field, Stanley
    Dance International (1937)
    Iacovleff, Alexandre
    Lemordant, Jean Julian
    Hocking, William Ernest
    Hoffman, Malvina
    Mestrovíc, Ivan
    Moore, Marianne
    Field Museum of Natural History
    Pavlova, Anna
    Rodin, Auguste