Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966)
1926 (Date created)
15 ½ in W
16 in H
10 in D
DescriptionMarble bust of poet John Keats
Exhibition LabelJohn Keats was a British Romantic poet who died at age 25 from tuberculosis. This bust was completed almost a hundred years after his death by American sculptor Malvina Hoffman. She created this image from an experience she had with the ghost of John Keats:
"When I found myself in the room where the poet had died, something inexplicable happened-I had a startling vision of Keats. I saw him steadily and clearly, reclining on a couch and propped up with pillows. I did what seemed natural-I told the guide I was an artist, and asked him if he could give me a piece of paper as I had not brought my sketchbook, and I persuaded him to leave me alone in the room for a while and not admit anyone else. I began to draw the profile of the poet. I did the entire head on the gray square of paper and then thought it would be well to check the absolute accuracy of this profile by getting a fresh view. When I walked in front of what I imagined was there, the vision disappeared."
The bust was a gift to the University of Pittsburgh from the artist. In 1923 Hoffman was in Pittsburgh for the opening of a retrospective of her work at the Carnegie Museum of Art. During the opening of her show, she observed University of Pittsburgh Chancellor John Gabbert Bowman speaking to the bust. Assuming that Bowman had experienced a similar spiritual encounter with Keats, she donated the bust to the University.
-from exhibition label for Face Value (fall 2012);Hoffman created this portrait of John Keats after having had an apparition of the poet while visiting his studio in Rome. She sketched the vision of the ghost on a piece of paper and realized it resembled known portraits of Keats. The marble piece, which took 14 years to complete, was exhibited at the Carnegie Institute in 1928. One day, while walking through the exhibition, the artist found chancellor John Bowman talking to the sculpture. Feeling he must have had a similar spiritual connection with the poet, she donated it to the University.
Gift of Malvina Hoffman
Malvina Hoffman, "Heads and Tales", Charles Scribner's sons, New York, 1936.
Arsene Alexandre, "Malvina Hoffman", J.E. Pouterman, Paris, 1930.
Malvina Hoffman, "Yesterday is Tomorrow. A Personal History", Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1965
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