Colleges’ History in Art

A part of the Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges is relevant to the history of the Colleges. Paintings and prints of the campus through the years and portraits of various members of the campus community have been commissioned and acquired throughout its history. One of the interesting pieces is a relief portrait.

Malvina Hoffman (1887-1966)
Relief of Francis Philip Nash, Professor of Latin 1871-1908, 1908
Bronze, 103 x 72 cm.

Malvina Hoffman was an American sculptor and author, well known for her life-size bronze sculptures of people. She also worked in plaster and marble. Stanley Field, director of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, commissioned Hoffman to create sculptures of people representing members of the diverse groups of humans in cultures around the world that became a permanent exhibition at the museum entitled “Hall of the Races of Mankind”, which was popular for both for its artistic and cultural values. The museum also published a Map of Mankind, featuring her sculptures in a border surrounding a map of the world that was distributed widely with an informative, large-format booklet that made Hoffman’s sculptures very well known. Portrait busts of significant individuals of that time and depictions of people in their everyday lives were frequent works executed by Hoffman. Dancers were the subjects of the works that brought her earliest recognition and she continued to sculpt dancers throughout her career, some individuals repeatedly, such as Anna Pavlova. She was highly skilled in foundry techniques as well, often casting her own works and she published a definite work on historical and technical aspects of sculpture, Sculpture Inside and Out.

Francis Phillip Nash was born in Florence, Italy, December 5, 1836 to New England parents. He grew up in Italy and received his A.B. degree from Harvard in 1856; A.M., LL.B. from Harvard in 1859. He practiced law in New York City for a dozen years, but the strain of law practice was too much for a constitution that was never robust, and on the advice of his physician he resigned the practice of law. His thoughts turned toward teaching, and in 1871 he was offered a position at Hobart where he remained as professor of Latin and Modern Languages, except for a short interval, until his retirement in 1908. The New York Evening Post wrote about him as follows: “A fine classical scholar, Professor Nash was equally at home in modern European languages and literatures, especially in the Roman literatures. He also knew Hungarian, Semitic, and Oriental languages. His knowledge of ancient and modern European history, both religious and political, was extensive and profound. He wrote and had published “Two Satires of Juvenal, With Notes” and was the first to translate the Prayer Book of the American Episcopal Church into Italian. He retired from teaching in 1908 due to frail health and died in Boston on February 5, 1911.

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