Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s Sculpture Scherzo Helps Beautify Bracken Library and Expose Thousands of Students Daily to Fine Art
Bracken Library proudly exhibits one of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s first and most popular garden fountains, Scherzo. The title refers to a playful musical composition, which perfectly describes the figure’s reaction, in dance-like movement, to having her toes splashed with cold water. Pipes emerge from the mouths of the five fish circling the base of the eighty-one inch bronze sculpture, which was designed for use as a fountain at the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The sculpture, one of six editions, is enjoyed by thousands of visitors daily at Bracken Library. Located on the main floor near the north entrance, the statue remains on loan from The Ball State University Museum of Art.
American sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980) was known for her work in bronze and was interested in depicting stylized movement, especially of the female figure, as exemplified by Scherzo.
She studied briefly with Auguste Rodin at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Paris. From Rodin, she said she learned two important things: first, always look at the silhouette of a subject and be guided by it, and secondly to remember that movement is the transition from one attitude to another. It is a bit of what was and a bit of what is to be, someone once said.
Frishmuth studied for two years with Professor Cuno von Euchtriz in Berlin and then at the Art Students’ League in New York before setting up her own studio around 1908. Her first commissioned piece was in 1910 from the New York County Medical Society. Frishmuth’s early pieces, such as ashtrays, bookends and small figures, are highly sought after by collectors. Her large bronzes often grace elaborate garden settings.
Frishmuth’s skillful rendering of the female physique is especially evident in the subtle definition of the figure’s muscles and ribs. The model for this 1917 statute was a Belgian girl named Janette Ransome. Dancer Desha Delteil modeled for the second edition. Both bronzes were among the sculptor’s most popular works during the 1920s, a period of heightened vogue in America for garden sculpture and fountains.