Jaguar, executed 1907.
Reaching Jaguar, executed 1906.
An ardent naturalist and keen observer of wildlife, Anna Hyatt Huntington's sculptural depictions of animals are the finest to be produced in the scion of American art. In her early life, she was greatly influenced by her father, a paleontologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who exposed her to the wonders of nature and wildlife. Huntington studied the violin eight hours a day, and took up sculpting on a fluke. She was asked by her sister to help her sculpt a dog, for a life size model that she was working on. This was the beginning of her love for sculpting and a change of avocation.
Huntington traveled to Paris in 1906, where she set up her studio at Auvers-sur-Oise, formally the studio of the Francois Daubigny. It was here that she sculpted the beautiful Reaching Jaguar and Jaguar. It is quite possible that in the years prior, she observed Jaguars at the Bronx Zoo, where there was a magnificent Jaguar named "Senior Lopez". She conceived the two Jaguar sculptures as a pair of gateposts and the plaster casts were later exhibited at the 1908 Paris Salon. Leonardo Taft, a great sculpture critic of the early twentieth century, cited them as among "the most originals things in American art." (P. Broder, Bronzes of the American West, New York, 1974, p. 247) Throughout her career, Huntington endeavored to bring forth a spiritual quality in her sculpture. These life-size bronzes are magnificent in their form and movement. Huntington is successful here in her understanding of the animal's anatomy and in capturing their energy and spirit. She reveals the strong, tense muscles and bone structure of the Jaguars, while portraying their intense focus on an unknown and unsuspecting prey.