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Press release

GAZELLE

Greek

Frances Rich – La Gazelle (1910-2007)

The modern art exhibition entitled «Frances Rich – La Gazelle», curated by Megakles Rogakos, is on view at the ACG Art Gallery on The American College of Greece’s Agia Paraskevi campus.

The American sculptress Frances Rich was born 100 yars ago, on 8 January 1910, in Spokane, Washington. She was the adopted daughter of Second World War army lieutenant Charles Henry Rich and noted silent film actress Irene Rich (1891-1988). She received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Smith College, Northampton, MA (1931). Soon thereafter she appeared in the following 6 films: Unholy Love (1932); The Thirteenth Guest (1932); Officer Thirteen (1932); Diamond Trail (1933); Zoo in Budapest (1933); and Pilgrimage (1933). She also appeared in Brief Moment (1931-1932) at the Belasco Theatre in Broadway, New York. During this period of screen and stage work she felt the urge to become a sculptress. ↓ more

Rich’s introduction to sculptress Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) by John Ford in New York in 1933 was to change her life for good. Rich followed Hoffman to Paris, and studied stone-carving with her and fresco painting with Ángel Zárraga (1886-1946) between 1933 and 1935. Upon returning to America, she did intensive drawing work under Alexandre Iacovleff (1887-1938) at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, between 1935 and 1936, and established her own studio in Manhattan, New York. Between 1937 and 1940 she was a resident student at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where she met the sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955), with whom she worked for the next 18 years.

During the Second World War, Rich joined the United States Naval Reserve first as a Lieutenant Junior Grade. She served as Special Assistant to Captain Mildred McAfee Horton (1900-1994), director of Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, also known as WAVES. Stationed in naval establishments throughout the United States and abroad, she completed her service to her country reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander (1942-1946). Immediately following the War, Rich was invited to return to her alma mater, Smith College, to assume the responsibilities of first director of public relations with the rank of full professor (1947-1950).

In 1950 Rich made sculpture her exclusive occupation, working in clay and plaster, bronze and brass, marble and stone. Her work consists largely of portrait busts and religious figures, many of which are over life-size. Highlights of her work include the limestone Purdue Bas Reliefs (1938) above the Union Building entrance of Purdue University, Lafayette, IN; the Army & Navy Nurse memorial (1938) at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA; the plaster statue of Questing Madonna (1954) for Madonna Festival, Santa Barbara, CA; the bronze Christ Crucified (1954) for the Holy Trinity Church, Bremerton, WA; The Laughing Pelican (1958) in front of the Pelican Building at the University of California, Berkeley, CA; the terracotta statue of Katharine Hepburn as Cleopatra (1965) for The American Shakespeare Festival Theater, Stratford, CT; the marble bust of Suffragette, Alice Stone Blackwell (1961) at the Boston Public Library, Boston, MA; the bronze statue of Our Lady of Combermere (1960) for the Madonna House at Combermere, Ontario, Canada; the polychrome oval bas-relief of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom (1965) for Saint Cecilia Church, Stanwood, WA; the polychrome relief of Madonna and Child (1970) for Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Bremerton, WA; the bronze high-relief of Christ of the Sacred Heart (1972) for Saint Sebastian’s Church, Los Angeles, CA; and portrait busts of great personalities that were her friends, such as painter Diego Rivera (1941); Smith President, Herbert Davis (1948); soprano Lotte Lehmann (1952); nurse Margaret Sanger (1957); composer Virgil Thomson (1961); producer Lawrence Langner (1963); and actress Katharine Hepburn (1959, 1960, 1961).

Notably, Rich is famed for her statues of Saint Francis of Assisi, an original free-standing type of remarkable grace. Highlights of this series include The Firestone Saint Francis (1951) for Saint Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Palm Desert, CA; the Saint Francis (1952) for The de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; The Henderson Saint Francis (1954) for Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA; The Geyman Saint Francis (1955) for Geyman Home, Montecito, CA; The Milles Saint Francis (1960) commissioned by Carl Milles for Millesgarden, Lidingo, Sweden, and The Mount Hymettus Saint Francis (1970) commissioned by The American College of Greece, Athens, Greece. Her work was exhibited in many parts of the world. She was featured in many publications and presented personal exhibitions in major art institutions, such as the Phoenix Center for the Arts, Phoenix, AZ (1954); Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA (1955); Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA (1955); Laguna Blanca School, Santa Barbara, CA (1955), and Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA (1969). To the end of her life she maintained her interest and vitality in art, artists, and all things artistic.

Rich’s relationship with The American College of Greece has a long history. The association of Rich with sculpture, as taught by Miller, inspired her admiration for Classical Greek art. This admiration was further augmented by her first visit to Greece in the early 1960s (along with Katherine Hepburn’s family). Her special friendship with ACG Dean Koralia Krokodilou (1902-2002), since the latter was studying for her master’s degree at Smith College in 1947, influenced Rich’s decision to donate The Mount Hymettus Saint Francis of Assisi, which was installed on the Agia Paraskevi campus in 1970. Her relationship with the College was further augmented when in 1976 Dr. John S. Bailey met her in his capacity as ACG President. Dr. Bailey now recalls her firm handshake contained the sculptress’ strength. At Dr. Bailey’s initiative, the Smith College Alumni of Greece honoured her on her third visit to Athens with «This is Your Life» event, on 11 October 1997, during which a film, showing her in uniform, was screened in Deree College’s Library. The wish of Bailey to form a lasting relationship with Rich led me, in my capacity as ACG Art Curator, to visit her at home in Arizona in 2005, and document her art. Her planned cruise in the Mediterranean Sea that included Athens in June 2005 was cancelled due to her failing health. She passed away at her home in Payson, Arizona, on 14 October 2007, aged 97. Recently , in January 2009, the Frances L. Rich Trust donated all of the sculpture, paintings, and other objects of art located in Ms. Rich’s residence in Payson Arizona to ACG Art. The College accepts this offer with gratitude for the benefit of generations of students to come.

To celebrate in 2010 the centenary from Frances Rich’s birth ACG Art Curator Rogakos entitled this exhibition «Frances Rich – La Gazelle». Going through the 1981 interview of Rich with Cranbrook Art Museum Director Roy Slade, Mr. Rogakos found that her teachers in sculpture gave her very loving and thoughful pet names. Hoffman called her ‘La Gazelle’ because she «leapt around all the time», while Milles referred to her as ‘Westenwind’ (Western Wind) evocative of Sweden’s «warm, happy, beneficient wind». In effect, Hoffman created a beautiful bust portrait of Rich entitled «La Gazelle», while Rich signed her «Milles Garden Saint Frances of Assisi» with two crossing Ws. Hoffman’s seminal sculpture gave the title of the present exhibition. Intriguing a name, ‘gazelle’ stands for style, elegance and energy, which are obvious qualities in Rich’s art. The exhibition’s aim is to introduce Frances Rich and to make her widely known to the international public. Therefore, the artworks chosen to be displayed are primarily by artists friends of her, who made portraits of her, such as William Abbot Cheever (USA 1907-1986), Manlio Guberti-Helfrich (Italy 1917-2003), Malvina Hoffman (USA 1885-1966), Alexandre Iacovleff (Russia 1887-1938), Geza Kende (Hungary 1889-1952), Clarence R. Mattei (USA 1883-1945), Carl Milles (Sweden 1875-1955), Josef Presser (Poland 1909-1967), Diego Rivera (Mexico 1886-1957) and Zoltan Sepeshy (Hungary 1898-1974). A selection of 20 seminal sculptures by Frances Rich are also included.

The exhibition runs Monday through Friday 09:00-21:00 until 30 June 2010.

A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue with original texts by ACG Art Curator Megakles Rogakos will accompany the exhibition gratis.

INFORMATION:

Megakles Rogakos,ACG Art Curator,The American College of Greece-ACG Art

6 Gravias Street, Agia Paraskevi, Athens, GR 15342, Greece
T: +30-210-6009800/1400

E: info@ACGart.gr

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