National Museum of Women in the Arts
Malvina Hoffman
June 15 1887 - July 10 1966
Photograph of Malvina Hoffman, ca.1920, by Roger Parry. 7 1/5 x 6 inches (20 x 16 cm). Miscellaneous photograph collection. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA.
Place of Birth:
New York
Phonetic Spelling:
mal-VEE-nah HAHF-mehn
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Artistic Role(s):
Bronze Worker, Carver, Caster, Marble Worker, Sculptor, Stone Carver
Artist's Biography:
Malvina Hoffman, whose sixty-year career made her one of the most important American sculptors of her time, created expressive and naturalistic sculptures that captured the lively spirit and energy of her models. Whether creating small statuettes, monumental sculpture, or an elegant frieze, Hoffman’s work demonstrates her fascination with sensual movement and the rhythm of dance.

In addition to studying with John White Alexander and several other private instructors, Hoffman also attended life drawings classes at The Art Student’s League in 1899 with Herbert Adams and George Gray Barnard. Upon seeing a collection of work by French sculptor Auguste Rodin in 1909, Hoffman almost immediately moved to Paris, determined to become his student. For four years, Hoffman worked under Rodin, learning foundry work, how to model from memory, and master anatomical proficiency. From Rodin, Hoffman discovered how to infuse life into her sculptures and developed a passion modeling the human form.

While in Paris, Hoffman saw a performance by the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova who instantly became a source of inspiration for her work. Hoffman met Pavlova in 1914 and the two became close friends. Hoffman created several portraits and ballet groups based on Pavlova and her troupe, including The Bacchanale, 1924, a twenty-five panel frieze representing various moments of a single dance. Hoffman also received numerous commissions for portraits including Polish pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski, Henry Clay Frick, and Paul M. Warburg.

Hoffman often gathered with fellow artists and friends at her Sniffen Court studio in New York and the Villa Asti in Paris to share artistic notes and travel adventures. The artist traveled extensively, especially during the 1930s when she was commissioned by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago to do more than 100 portraits of ethnic types from throughout East Asia, the South Pacific, and Africa. Hoffman’s life-size sculptures were exhibited in the Field Museum’s Hall of Man. Other projects included a bas-relief on the façade of the World War II Memorial in Epinal, France, and insignia designs for the Red Cross and Wendell Wilkie’s 1940 presidential campaign.

Despite a severe heart attack in 1958, Hoffman continued to sculpt, creating many commissioned portraits, but always returning to her favorite subject--dance and movement--creating several more series of dancers and acrobats. She exhibited widely, was a member of several national and international artist societies, and was an Academician of the National Academy of Design. Hoffman died in her New York studio in the summer of 1966.

Other Occupation(s):
Author, Lecturer, Traveler
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Private lessons, Zagreb, Croatia (1927) Private lessons, Paris, France (1910-1914) College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY, USA (1911) Veltin School, New York, NY, USA (1906) Private lessons, New York, NY, USA (1906) The Art Students League of New York, New York, NY, USA (1899) Women's School of Applied Design, New York, NY, USA (1899)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Samuel Bonarios Grimson friend of Marianne Moore friend of Ruth Draper student of Herbert Adams student of John White Alexander student of Gutzon Borglum student of Auguste Rodin student of Harper Pennington student of Ivan Mestrovic student of Emanuele de Rosales student of George Gray Barnard teacher of Anna Hyatt Huntington colleague of Janet Scudder
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Helen Foster Barnett Prize, National Academy of Design, New York, NY, USA (1921) George Widner Gold Medal, Pennsylvannia Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1920) First Prize, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1912)
Earliest exhibition:
Le Salon, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1910)
NMWA exhibition(s):
American Women Artists: 1830-1930
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Artist retrospective(s):
The Woman Sculptor: Malvina Hoffman and Her Contemporaries, Berry Hill Galleries, New York, NY, USA (1984) Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966), FAR Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1980) A Comprehensive Exhibition of Sculpture by Malvina Hoffman, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, USA (1937)
Related places
New York (died at)
Anna Pavlova