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Marion Sanford and Cornelia Chapin papers, 1929-1988

Biographical Note

Marion Sanford was born in 1904 in Ontario, Canada and was raised in Warren, Pennsylvania. She studied painting at the Pratt Institute in New York, and worked for a period of time as a stage and costume designer. She developed an interest in sculpture, and studied the direct-carving method briefly at the Art Students League, but was largely self-taught. In 1937 she had her first exhibition of sculptures depicting women performing household chores and everyday tasks. She later created a series called "Women at Work" and her imagery of women would be the subject for which she would become best known, although she also completed bronze portraits and bas-reliefs. In 1941 and 1943 she worked as a Guggenheim Fellow, and became a member of the National Academy of Design, National Sculpture Society, and the National Association of Women Artists. Sanford won many awards and medals for her works and also created sculptures on commission, including a carved altar panel for the First Methodist Church in Warren, Pennsylvania. Marion Sanford died in 1987.
Cornelia Van Auken Chapin was born in 1893 in Waterford, Connecticut. After exploring other interests, including aeronautics, she decided to become a sculptor in the 1920s. She studied with Gail Corbett and in the early 1930s began exhibiting her sculptures of animals. In 1934 she moved to Paris, France and studied with Mateo Hernandez as his only student. Under Hernandez, she learned the technique of direct-carving from life in stone and wood and won the 2nd grand prize at the Paris Exposition in 1937. In 1936, Chapin was the only foreign and woman sculptor elected to the Societaire Salon d'Automne in Paris. The threat of World War II brought her back to the United States in 1939. Chapin won many awards for her sculptures and became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1945 and the National Sculpture Society. She was also one of the founding members of Artists' for Victory, Inc. and a participant in the women's artist group known as "The Philadelphia Ten," a unique and progressive group of women painters and sculptors who often exhibited together in the Philadelphia area.
In the late 1930s Chapin purchased a studio in New York City which had formally belonged to sculptor Gutzon Borglum. She shared the studio with her fellow sculptor Marion Sanford, and often modeled for Sanford's work. Sanford and Chapin remained close companions until Chapin's death in 1972.