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Wilhelm Hunt Diederich
(Budapest, 1884 – New York, 1953)
He grew in the family estate of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire in which dogs, horses and stags lived together in some sort of wonderland and, despite losing the father at only three years old, at five he was already creating paper shapes that represented the animals that lived in the estate.
He moved with the mother in Switzerland near Lausanne, but a year later they traveled to Boston to live in the house of the maternal grandfather, the painter William Morris Hunt (1824-1879), who introduced in America the school of landscape painting of Barbizon.
He continued his studies in the U.S.A. both at the Milton Academy and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts but, shortly after, roughly in 1904, because of his rebellious nature and disinclined to academic enviroments, decided to leave the school to go to Paris to study with the sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet the animals at the Museé d’Historie Naturelle in the Jardin des Plantes.
The next year he goes back to the U.S.A. with the intention to move to the West to live a cowboy life: he worked in Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico. In 1905 he became American citizen and, in 1906, he leaves his cowboy character and he enrolls at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he meets the sculptor Paul Manship. With Manship he goes back to Europe after being expelled from the Academy for the use of “inappropriate language”.
In 1910 and 1911 he exhibits at the Paris Salon and, in 1912, he held a monographic exhibition in Rome.
In 1913 he shows a chalk sculpture at the Salon D’Automne de Paris “Greyhounds”, receiving a lot of praise from the critics. The baron Robert de Rothschild was attracted by this work and he bought a bronze casting of it other than commission to him some metal fences.
The greyhound becomes one of the favorite subjects in the Diederich’s beasts repertoire, celebrated in his paper shapes and decorative objects, including his unique focusing screens.
He goes back to New York in 1914 and he started working with different materials such as fabrics and ceramics, he creates fences, fountains and lamps.
In 1920 he presents 88 works at the Kingore Galleries, most of which represented animals.
During the ’20s he works with great success and some important museums suchs as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Newark Museum bought his works.
In the ’30s and ’40s he works on important public commissions for New York, such as the gates of the Central Park zoo and the Bronx one, other than important private commissions both in America and Europe.
He was expelled, in 1947, from the National Institute of Arts and Letters because he wrote on papers signed by the institute mails with antisemitic delcarations.
In 1953, Hunt Diederich dies while he was working on a commission for a bas-relief for the American society of prevention of cruelty towards animals in New York City.