Harriet Frishmuth's Crest of the Wave was originally commissioned by Frank J. Hogan of Washington, D.C. Frishmuth's close friend Ruth Talcott writes, “Whitney says that one day a gentleman came to the studio in Sniffen Court and said that he admired the fountain in his neighbor’s garden in Washington, D.C. and was telling his neighbor so. His neighbor told him that the fountain statue was Joy of the Waters, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth. And the gentleman told Whit he wanted one like it for his garden. But Harriet told him that she didn’t want to sell another Joy that would be right next door to the first client; she didn’t think that would be fair.” (Sculptured Hyacinths, New York, 1973, p. 158) As a result, Frishmuth designed a work, modeled by her frequent model Desha, that would exude an energetic spirit similar to her Joy of the Waters, and also fulfill Hogan's request “to have the body played upon by water at all times when the fountain is in use.” (Captured Motion: The Sculpture of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, New York, 2006, p. 37)
Crest of the Wave went on to become one of Frishmuth's most popular sculptures, with over 300 casts sold of the smaller 21 in. size created as a working model. Only 22 examples, including the present work, were cast in the original, life-size 66 in. version. Other examples are in the collections of the Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana; Canton Museum of Art, Canton, Ohio; Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire; Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, St. Paul, Minnesota; and the Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania.