Suffragette Sculptor: an American archival glance at Enid Yandell

The eve before Yandell’s Pallas Athena set sail overseas to America for the Nashville centennial, Enid hosted an opulent candle-lit dinner party in the torso of the statue, outside her studio in Paris’ Latin quarter. A sort of bon voyage feast of colossal proportions!


 

August 2nd, 2016    by M. Elise Hillestad

In the early 1890’s, the American city of Nashville, Tennessee decided it needed it’s own Parthenon. Boastfully self- monikered the “Athens of the South, the moderately-sized metropolis began plans to, for the occasion of its Centennial Exposition, commission a newly built structure of epic Greek proportions. At the center of this historical replica of the Athenian Acropolis Parthenon, would loom a 42 ft. high statue of the Pallas Athena- goddess of reason, craft, war, and wit. To create this colossal brainchild, sprung from the mind of Zeus, the city commissioned a young suffragette sculptor named Enid Yandell.

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Born in Louisville Kentucky in 1870, the clever Yandell would complete degrees in chemistry, before going on to study sculpting, moving to Paris and studying under Frederick William MacMonnies at the Académie Vitti in Montparnasse , as well as the French master sculptor Rodin. She began a productive career as one of America’s premier female sculptors, taking on many commissions, including numerous statues and architectural embellishments for the Horticultural Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, with a group of other women sculptors who called themselves the White Rabbits.

The eve before Yandell’s Pallas Athena set sail overseas to America for the Nashville centennial, Enid hosted an opulent candle-lit dinner party in the torso of the statue, outside her studio in Paris’ Latin quarter. A sort of bon voyage feast of colossal proportions! Or so the story goes.

Eventually, the elements took their toll on Yandell’s laboriously achieved work of classical mastery; it became weather-worn and unsightly. Ultimately, the goddess of reason was deconstructed by Nashville, and in 1990 a new statue of Athena with garish gold paint and bugged out eyes, in trend with a more modern projection of the Greek’s aesthetic was erected by Nashville-native Alan LeQuire.

Still, we have these gorgeous archival photographs of Enid’s noble moment in American sculptural history captured by an unknown photographer to remember beauty passed.

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3Enid Yandell with her sculpture of Pallas Athena, 1896 / unidentified photographer. Enid Yandell papers, 1878-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

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