PROPERTY FROM THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
First modeled in 1921 and cast as a statuette, The Vine quickly became one of Harriet Frishmuth's most popular and commercially successful bronzes. During the forty-five years that the 11¼ inch sculpture was produced, 396 editions were cast, making it one of the largest authorized editions in the history of American bronzes of the period; according to the artist, they sold "like hotcakes." The initial spark of inspiration for the image of a sinuous woman on tiptoe, her back arched in delightful abandon, occurred in a moment of spontaneity during one of the classes Frishmuth held for female sculptors at her Sniffen Court studio in New York City. Years later, model Renée Wilde recalled: "I took the pose, later to be known as The Vine simply because it was a position I often took in my dancing. As I held it, I kept bending further and further back." As Wilde posed, Frishmuth executed an informal model of the piece before her students, telling them: "I'm going to put my figure up on its toes, and then I'm going to bend her back a little further to get a little more action into it, and ... I'll put some grape vines in her hands." (in Captured Motion, 2006, p. 41). When Frishmuth created the formal version of The Vine she used her favorite model, Desha Delteil, though the artist gave both women credit as models.
In 1923 Frishmuth produced a larger-than-life version of The Vine that reached a height of 83 ½ inches for the Exhibition of American Sculpture, the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the National Sculpture Society. The exhibition's organizers encouraged participating sculptors to create enlarged versions of their works and Frishmuth exhibited a plaster rendering of the sculpture at the landmark event in the spring and summer of 1923. The present work is one of only five larger scale bronze editions of The Vine, which were cast between 1923 and 1927 by Gorham Co. Founders. The process of enlarging the bronze posed a challenge to Frishmuth who later recounted that: "It was a little difficult because she [Desha] bent her head back so far that I had to model the face upside-down which wasn't an easy stunt to do, up on a ladder and trying to model a face upside-down" (in Captured Motion, p. 32). Today other large scale versions of The Vine are in major public collections including the Cincinnati Art Museum, The University of Tennessee's Frank H. McClung Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
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