Sculpture Highlights from the National Academy 

National Academy of Design

The National Academy’s permanent collection includes more than 300 sculptures spanning a period of time from the early 19th century through today.  This selection of highlights reveals the strengths of this aspect of the Academy’s collection through a variety of styles and media. 

Self-Portrait, John Frazee, 1827, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Frazee was the only sculptor to be a charter member of the National Academy, and for many historians, the history of American sculpture begins with him.

Self-Portrait, John Frazee, 1827, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Scholar Frederick Voss has suggested that his use of the herm form was inspired by a cast of a bust of Alexander the Great that was in the collection of the American Academy of Fine Arts in the 1820s.

Self-Portrait, John Frazee, 1827, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

A herm is a statue in the form of a square stone pillar surmounted by a bust or head, especially of Hermes, the ancient Greek god of fertility.

Self-Portrait, John Frazee, 1827, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The inscription has never been fully interpreted. However, the Roman numerals are accepted as signifying the 52nd year of the United States’ existence as a nation, that is, 1827.

The Freedman, John Quincy Adams Ward, 1862, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Inspired by Abraham Lincoln's issue of the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, Ward completed the model in that same month and exhibited it at the National Academy's annual exhibition.

The Freedman, John Quincy Adams Ward, 1862, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The dark patination of the bronze deliberately complements the subject's race, and the figure's broken manacle symbolizes his liberation.

The Freedman, John Quincy Adams Ward, 1862, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

He conveys the figure's strength with his musculature, which concerned some contemporary critics who felt that the ideal freedman should be portrayed as a patient martyr, not as a powerful Adonis.

The Freedman, John Quincy Adams Ward, 1862, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The figure and symbolism of the emancipated slave was a highly controversial subject in America, and Ward's Freedman was an important early model in its development.

Diana, Frederick MacMonnies, 1888/1890, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Diana was the first independent work that MacMonnies created in Paris, where he studied under the sculptor Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguiére at the École des Beaux-Arts.

Diana, Frederick MacMonnies, 1888/1890, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

A life size plaster of the piece was exhibited at the 1889 Paris Salon. The following year he executed the sculpture in bronze, and it achieved immediate commercial success.

Diana, Frederick MacMonnies, 1888/1890, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The work depicts Diana, the goddess of the hunt and of the moon (indicated by her attribute, the crescent). The design is indebted to Falguiére's Diana (1882) and A Hunting Nymph (1884).

Diana, Frederick MacMonnies, 1888/1890, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The Academy's cast is the only silvered version known to exist.

The Young Mother, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, 1896, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Over the course of her career Vonnoh created a series of mother and child sculptures in bronze as well as plaster. The Young Mother was her first such genre group.

The Young Mother, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, 1896, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The piece was modeled in 1896, and the first casts were made in 1899. It was incredibly popular, and received several awards, including a bronze medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900.

The Young Mother, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, 1896, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

According to the sculptor, thirty examples of the piece were cast. Her friend and former classmate at the Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Gerow Proctor, served as the model for the mother.

Victory, Evelyn Beatrice Longman, 1903/1908, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

This figure of Victory is a replica of the plaster model for Longman's Victory, which was designed in 1903 for the St. Louis World's Fair of the following year.

Victory, Evelyn Beatrice Longman, 1903/1908, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Contemporary critics noted the unusual use of a male model to represent an allegory that was traditionally shown in the female form.

Victory, Evelyn Beatrice Longman, 1903/1908, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

In 1912, Longman reasoned, "Men [...] have occasionally had something to do with victories. Why should not at least one statue of a victory be a male figure?”

The Joy of the Waters, Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, 1920, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Frishmuth created two versions of this work. The 61-inch high version was created in 1917, and the smaller 44-inch version here dates from three years later. The artist preferred the 1920 version.

The Joy of the Waters, Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, 1920, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

She found that in the reduced size the rhythm and the spirit of the design were better expressed by her favorite model Desha’s body type (Janet Ransome served as the model for the 1917 version).

The Joy of the Waters, Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, 1920, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Frishmuth related that her “figures express motion, and [Desha] is wonderful. She can do anything I tell her. Some of the poses can only be held for a moment but she can reproduce them exactly.”

Diana of the Chase, Anna Hyatt Huntington, 1922, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

In 1922, shortly after this life-size figure was modeled, it won the Academy's Saltus Medal for Merit and was exhibited in that year's annual.

Diana of the Chase, Anna Hyatt Huntington, 1922, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

A replica originally stood in a dining-room niche in the Huntington home on Fifth Avenue, which they donated to The National Academy in the early 1940s and where the institution still resides today.

Diana of the Chase, Anna Hyatt Huntington, 1922, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Diana is balanced on an orb, probably a symbolic representation of her other manifestation as goddess of the Moon.

Desert Sand Wind, Donald Hord, 1945, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

San Diego sculptor Donal Hord was fascinated by indigenous traditions throughout the Americas and in East Asia, which he had studied since childhood.

Desert Sand Wind, Donald Hord, 1945, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Hord worked in a variety of materials inspired by local cultures, including the dense lignum vitae of Desert Sand Wind, which was used by Mesoamerican craftsmen.

Desert Sand Wind, Donald Hord, 1945, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Hord was one of a number of American figurative sculptors during the 1920s-30s who borrowed from diverse cultural traditions in order to endow their works with a sense of exoticism and sensuality.

Untitled (Germinal), Louise Bourgeois, 1967, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

"Art is about life and that about sums it up," Louise Bourgeois said. In this work the cluster of organic forms seems to sprout out of the bronze, suggesting growth and regeneration.

Untitled (Germinal), Louise Bourgeois, 1967, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The rounded shape of the lower part of the sculpture, which evokes a cell, a cocoon or a nest, also emphasizes the ideas of germination.

Untitled (Germinal), Louise Bourgeois, 1967, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Bourgeois’ art was indebted to Surrealism, which inspired her to explore her interior world and the subconscious in extremely inventive and fascinating ways.

Tourist Cabin (Pensacola), Donna Dennis, 1976, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Over the course of her career, Donna Dennis has been drawn to vernacular architecture and the way what happens to a building over time can come to tell a story.

Tourist Cabin (Pensacola), Donna Dennis, 1976, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

She creates sculpture inspired by places of transit such as hotels, subways stations, roller coasters and tourist cabins. For her, these places represent stopping places on the journey through life.

Tourist Cabin (Pensacola), Donna Dennis, 1976, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

These works were inspired by summer trips in her childhood. This type of tourist cabin is reminiscent of a time when middle class American families traveled but could not afford to stay in hotels.

The Fandancer, Polly Apfelbaum, 1995, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Early in her career, Apfelbaum began experimenting with various applications of dye and different organizing systems of color, challenging the conventional boundaries between painting and sculpture.

The Fandancer, Polly Apfelbaum, 1995, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Her choice of velvet opened the work up to an array of associations from clothing and craft to gender and class.

The Fandancer, Polly Apfelbaum, 1995, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The velvet strips have no fixed configuration and are reorganized each time they are installed, resulting in work that resists permanence and instead embraces a sense of immediacy and possibility.

The Light, Stephen Antonakos, 1997, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

By 1964, Antonakos was working almost exclusively with neon to create works that defy conventional definitions of sculpture.

The Light, Stephen Antonakos, 1997, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Like all of Antonakos's neon panels,The Light floats on a wall over a neon light, in this case white light, that emanates from behind.

The Light, Stephen Antonakos, 1997, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The intrinsic allaying and ethereal qualities in Antonakos's panels have been linked to Greek icons, while his integration of light has been interpreted as halo like.

The Light, Stephen Antonakos, 1997, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

The Light relates to a specific architectural setting and activates both the surrounding physical space and suggests a psychological space of quietude and self-reflection.

Pine Islands, Betty Woodman, 1999, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Woodman is recognized as one of the most important ceramic artists working today. She employs many forms, from fragmented vases to benches to pitchers, presenting diverse influences and traditions.

Pine Islands, Betty Woodman, 1999, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

She has traveled extensively, finding inspiration in cultures around the world. Pine Islands were inspired by travels to the Pityusic Islands of Ibiza in the Mediterranean Sea.

Pine Islands (back), Betty Woodman, 1999, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

As Woodman states, “The centrality of the vase in my work is certainly a reference to a global perspective on art history and production. The container is a universal symbol [...]"

Untitled #8, Garth Evans, 2000, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Born in 1934 in the UK, Garth Evans has produced an extensive body of work on both sides of the Atlantic over an active career beginning in the early 1960s.

Untitled #8, Garth Evans, 2000, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Working mostly with abstract compositions, Evans is always interested in new materials and breaching new horizons with them. He creates work from such diverse materials as ceramics and fiberglass.

Untitled #8, Garth Evans, 2000, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

His work is at once textural and emotive. Evans states that many of his works even when most abstract, are "triggers for and containers of particular identifiable memories.”

Stamp Bowl, Ursula von Rydingsvard, 2011, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Von Rydingsvard is known for her large-scale sculpture made from cedar beams which she cuts, assembles, and on which she then rubs powdered graphite into the work’s textured, faceted surfaces.

Stamp Bowl, Ursula von Rydingsvard, 2011, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Her signature abstract shapes refer to things in the real world, each revealing the mark of the human hand while also summoning natural forms and forces.

Stamp Bowl, Ursula von Rydingsvard, 2011, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Many of her works suggest simple vessels, bowls or tools, or allude to primitive dwellings, geological formations, landscape or the human body.

Stamp Bowl, Ursula von Rydingsvard, 2011, From the collection of: National Academy of Design

Born in 1942 in Nazi Germany to Polish and Ukrainian parents, she spent her formative years in refugee camps. These painful memories led her to respect organic materials and the dignity of labor.

Credits: Story

Curator - Diana Thompson

Communications Associate - Harineta Rigatos

Special thanks to our intern Amy King

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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