Why Did the Great Southern Writers Call Sculptor Malvina Hoffman Friend?

How did the famous New York sculptor Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966), wind up with close ties to the far away  Mississippi Delta?  In the early 20th century, many great southern writers liked to hang out at the home and garden of Greenville, Mississippi native William Alexander Percy. His was the arts and letters salon of the region.  In the August/ September  issue of Delta Magazine writer Hank Burdine calls Percy   “… a poet, planter, lawyer and world traveler.  He was a mentor host and friend to artists and intellectuals and even a few vagabonds and bohemians.  William Faulkner, Ben Wasson, Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsey, Shelby Foote Stephen Vicente Benet, Langston Hughes and  the Hodding Carters were a part of Percy’s close circle of friends.”

We know what happened when these great southern minds came together, great writing prevailed. But how did  sculptor Malvina Hoffman fit into their story? Her world was Auguste Rodin, Anna Pavlova, Paris, New York,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, not the Mississippi Delta.

The well-traveled William Percy came to New York to meet  Hoffman in February 1930. He wanted to create a bronze for his father, Senator Leroy Percy’s grave site and he only wanted the best. His artist sensibilities knew his father was worthy of this honor.  Hoffman and Percy connected, as artists of the same mindset often do.  He visited her studio, and to the tune of $13,000, Percy commissioned Hoffman to create The Patriot. In today’s dollars, almost half a million, a fortune.

The Patriot by Sculptor Malvina Hoffman, Greenville, Mississippi
Hoffman created The Patriot for William Alexander Percy in memory of his father Senator Leroy Percy. He remains steady and calm always protecting the Greenville Cemetery Grave.

As the months passed, the two began to write letters to one another.  When Percy wrote to Hoffman, he wrote as a poet about his beloved southern town, “I wish you could see our country now. It is lovely with the  Judas trees in bloom and the weeping willows that look like fountains.”

Hoffman came to Greenville in the summer of 1930 to complete the commission. The heat was wilting for the Yankee, but she prevailed.  Together, she and Percy picked out the landscaping, which still stands today.  She also became acquainted with the great southern writers of the day at Percy’s home.  They felt a kindred spirit in the sculptor and she was drawn to their great intellectual banter and talent. Throughout the years Percy kept in touch and later, he insisted his Greenville friend, sculptor Leon Koury move to New York and immerse himself in Malvina Hoffman.  Koury did just that and Hoffman shared with him the wisdom passed down to her  from her teacher, Auguste Rodin.

When you visit The Patriot in the Greenville, Mississippi cemetery, look beyond the incredible bronze statue, one that Percy called the greatest gift in his life.  There is so much more to the story than a great tribute to a local hero.  It’s the story of a man, William Percy who shared his love of arts and letters in a small town, in the very deep south. This sanctuary for the intellectuals of the time  gave rise to many of our great literary heroes today, heroes who accepted Malvina Hoffman as a member of their club.

 

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The Patriot by Malvina Hoffman, 1930  Greenville, Mississippi

 

My Muse Made Me Do It

Sculptor Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) Writes Her Fourth Book –  Through Me

 

I know, this headline sounds crazy, but it’s true! I was captured by a muse and oh, what a ride it’s been! Sculptor Malvina Hoffman first found me at the home of her great nephew Chip. We began dating in 2008, and he invited me to his beautiful condo overlooking the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida. When I first entered his home I was struck by an unusually large number of incredible sculptures. “Who is the artist?” I asked. He told me it was his great aunt Malvina, and then shared a few stories of her life.  Words like Rodin, Paris, around- the-world, largest commission history of bronze, were mentioned, but I couldn’t hear him, because I was love struck. My muse grabbed my heart and that was it.

No doubt, Chip brought me back to his apartment as a move to seduce.  It worked, I fell hard, I fell hard for Malvina Hoffman.  The good news is Chip and I also later fell in love and married in 2013!

But, Malvina – I was an amateur collector and art lover. I  traveled and visited enough museums to know many different artists in history and today, but I never heard of Malvina Hoffman. This made me mad, she was magnificent. At that moment, Malvina picked me to tell her story and bring her back to her rightful place in history, art history and American history. I had no choice.  My destiny was fated.

Over the past six years I studied, researched, wrote and rewrote her story.  My first draft was in first person, I didn’t like it. I took the 70,000 words and rewrote them into third person.  Malvina’s  bronze self portrait still sits on my desk and she watches over me, even now as I write this blog. While I wrote she pushed me, prodded me and demanded I tell her story well.

Malvina did leave me once.  She simply disappeared.  I was shattered and went to a famous medium to find out why (desperate people do desperate things).   My mother first came through, but I told my mother I didn’t have much time and needed to talk to my muse.  Malvina made herself known, she was a very successful businesswoman, an intellectual and artist – she did not play games.  “Stop writing about my love life,”  was the general message I received through the medium, who relayed this message  via the fourth dimension.  I was writing about her love life, my title was ‘Love Letters to Malvina.’ I took this message very seriously and promised to not go there.  Malvina came back to me and I didn’t  betray her trust.  Five years later my book (co written by the muse herself) Beautiful Bodies – The Adventures of Malvina Hoffman, found it ‘s way into the literary world.   My hope is you will fall in love with Malvina as I have.  Her story is Forrest Gump – like, in that she knew everyone and was in the middle of everything in early 20th century history.  Not only that, but she was one hell of a sculptor.  She was awarded a front page obituary in the New York Times, such was her fame.  Malvina is now forgotten, like most women artists.  It’s time to bring her back to her rightful place in art history, to the head of the class, remembered as when she died  “America’s Rodin.”

Order Malvina’s Story – Click Here

 

 

 

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The Biography of Malvina Hoffman
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Self Portrait of Malvina Hoffman