Malvina Hoffman ( American, 1885 - 1966 )

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General Description

The straining, athletic forms of this rare marble composition exemplify the importance of the human figure in motion for Malvina Hoffman. Throughout her long and distinguished career, Hoffman chose the body as her focus. After completing sculpture and drawing courses at the Art Students League, Hoffman made frequent trips to Paris starting in 1910 and eventually studied with Auguste Rodin. The famed French sculptor impressed upon her the necessity to master all technical processes of art. Hoffman's interest in figural subjects received early acclaim when her Russian Dancers was shown at the National Academy of Design (New York, NY). Between 1914 and 1924, she worked on a twenty-five-panel frieze (Bacchanale) based on photographs and drawings of Anna Pavlova and her dance partner.

Extended close study of her subjects marked all of Hoffman's work, whether her first successes capturing the performances of ballet legends or her best-known project, the 1930 commission for "The Races of Man" at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History (opened June 6, 1933). The Chicago work includes approximately 104 sculptures of subjects of all ethnicities, taken from five years of global travel. She also created an "International Dance Fountain" for the New York World's Fair in 1939.

Hoffman authored three books about her art and travels. Sculpture, Inside and Out (1939) offers technical guidance and instruction for sculptors. Heads and Tales in Many Lands (1937) is a travel novel based on her anthropological research for the Field Museum commission. And Yesterday and Tomorrow (1965) is her autobiography, published the year before her death.

Adapted from

William Keyse Rudolph, DMA Label copy (2003.48), May 2005.

Fun Facts

  • Though this work did not enter the DMA's collection until the 21st century, the artist's sculpture had traveled to Dallas on multiple earlier occasions. She had pieces shown in Dallas Art Association exhibitions in 1919, 1922, and 1927.

  • Hoffman was close friends with Anna Pavlova, a lead dancer in Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russe. The two met in 1914 and remained close until Pavlova's death in 1931.

  • After proving herself to be a talented student and competent colleague, Hoffman and Auguste Rodin formed a close friendship. When the First World War threatened his studio and private studio, Hoffman helped him safely store the works away from danger.