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Early Sculpture and Sculptors in San Diego
by Bruce Kamerling
Curator of Collections San Diego Historical Society
Cover photo: Felix Peano's high relief sculpture The Fight Over the Horn of Plenty decorated the corner tower of San Diego's United States National Bank (built in 1912) at Second and Broadway. Peano adapted his design from a free-standing bronze group, The Fighters (1867) by Johan Peter Molin which is outside the entrance to the National Museum in Stockholm. Courtesy, San Diego History Center Title Insurance and Trust Photograph Collection.
San Diego's best known public sculpture, Anna Hyatt Huntington's El Cid Campeador,dedicated in 1930, dramatically guards the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park. William Templeton Johnson designed the limestone base.
In 1903, E. W. Scripps commissioned Arthur Putnam to produce five historical sculptures including Indian, shown here on its original site at Miramar Ranch. Only three of the bronzes were ever completed. Two of them, the Indian and Padre, were moved to Presidio Park in 1933 and finally donated to the San Diego History Center by the descendants of E. W. Scripps in 1976.
Alfonso Iannelli's modernistic sculptures decorate the corners of the Golden West Hotel on "G" Street. John Lloyd Wright under the supervision of Harrison Albright designed the building in 1913. Iannelli later worked for Wright's father, Frank Lloyd Wright, on the famous Midway Gardens in Chicago.
The Piccirilli Brothers of New York produced the sculptured frontispiece of the California Building for the 1915 Panama California Exposition. This famous family of sculptors did the actual marble carving on Daniel Chester French's enormous figure of Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
For the interior of the California Building, Jean Berman Cook-Smith created a series of relief panels depicting the life of the ancient Maya of Mexico. Some of the panels are still in place in the rotunda of the Museum of Man.
At its inaugural exhibition, the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery (now Museum of Art) featured a collection of work by the Serbian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic.
* See note
Frederick Schweigardt, official sculptor for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, stands next to his fountain Four Cornerstones of American Democracy. Althought in poor condition today, the fountain may still be seen in the atrium of the Balboa Park Club.
Towards the end of her life well-known American sculptors Anna Coleman Ladd had a studio at the Spanish Village in Balboa Park. While there, she produced this figure called Spirit of California which was exhibited with a group of her bronzes at the Fine Arts Gallery in 1937
Ruth Norton Ball exhibited her bronze Mother and Child at the "Contemporary American Sculpture" exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 1929. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Isabelle Churchman's mahogany relief panels depicting Roosevelt's Four Freedoms (Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear) were produced as a war memorial for the Russ Auditorium at San Diego High School in 1944.
Local portrait painter Aloys Bohnen painted his friend the sculptor Charles "Cris" Cristadoro in the early 1920s. Unfortunately, a fire at Bohnen's point Loma studio destroyed many of the painter's works including this portrait.
After leaving San Diego, Cristadoro eventually found his way to the Walt Disney Studios where he became a character model artist. He created this figure of Pinocchio to assist the animators of the film.
Charles Cristadoro made the acquaintance of movie actor William S. Hart around 1917 and produced a number of statues of the film star. The most important of these was a life-size bronze of the city of Billings, Montana. Photograph courtesy the Western Heritage Center, Billings, Montana.
Donal Hord used an air hammer to rough out his sculptures in diorite. This 1948 photograph shows him working on the figure Spring Stirring while the completed El Colorado can be seen in the foreground.
For the American Battle Monuments Commission, Hord created a twelve foot tall Angel of Peace for the cemetery at Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, which contains the graves of Americans who died during the Battle of the Bulge.
Hutchinson's original plaster bust of Alonzo Horton, modeled from life in 1906, is now in the collection of the San Diego Historical Society; a gift of the Pioneer Society in 1930. A bronze cast was finally made in 1980 with funds provided by the Faye Dobbs Gonzalez Foundation
In his San Francisco studio Arthur Putnam puts the finishing touches on a sculpture of his favorite subject, the puma. Putnam made his studio in the hull of a sailing ship that had been abandoned in San Francisco Bay during the Gold Rush. As the shallow part of the bay filled in, these land-locked ships were converted to other uses.
While studying in France, Anna Valentien had the honor of having one of her sculptures, a bas-relief portrait of her husband, accepted for the Paris Salon of 1900. San Diego Historical Society, gift of Mavina McFeron, 1980.
Zim's bronze Portrait of My Father received a silver medal when it was exhibited at the 1916 exposition. It depicts Jacob Zimmerman who served as rabbi in San Diego. San Diego History Center, gift of Roger Zim, 1988.
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