Pencil study of The Elephant Hunter sculpture (1927), by Malvina Hoffman. This was one of the most striking pieces from the current retrospective of Hoffman’s work at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. If you are in Iowa, I recommend taking time to visit this exhibition.
Like her mentors Borglum and Rodin, Hoffman gravitated toward interpreting the human figure, from creating life-size, full-body sculptures, to heads and delicate hands. All are expressive and ornate, capturing the jewelry, fabric, gestures and gazes of her subjects. The way she revealed their lifelike forms is reflected in a 1930 commission that sent her abroad for five years to showcase humanity’s diverse races.
She traveled the globe, and created 104 bronze sculptures for the Hall of Man in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Among the works are 27 life-size full-body sculptures, 27 busts and 50 heads, which she said interpreted humanity from three angles: arts, science and psychology. According to the Field Museum’s website, “the idea was to use sculpture as a way to reveal man to his brother.”