. . Here he worked on his only private commission for Scripps
Miramar Ranch. The Indian is a familiar image located today in Presidio
Park, San Diego, California. From glass plates courtesy of the SDMA
archives, photographs by Roy Robinson. The glass plates may have been
made by Ansel Adams. When the famous photographer was asked about
them, he recalled making plates of Putnams work but said, because
of commitments, he would check records later. Unfortunately his death
soon after prevented him from doing so.
. . The property was acquired by the artist from a Mr. Hammerstrom,
a painter friend who was keeper of the Park windmill near the end
of Golden Gate Park. At first he lived in a tent on the property,
but by 1907 he had completed the floor. His studio was established
in a deserted boat on the beach. Here he had worked on the Scripps
commission. A son, George, was born two years later in 1910. It seemed
nothing but good times were in store for the young couple. Things
changed quickly within the next year. Arthur suffered a stroke, a
condition possibly linked to a severe concussion suffered when, as
a boy, he fell from a tree. The brain tumor that was surgically removed
left him partially paralyzed, bringing to an end his creative life.
His struggle to overcome the handicap was to prove unsuccessful.
. . . Frequently, Putnam had been visited
by another significant patron, Francophile Alma De Bretteville Spreckels,
1881-1968, heiress of a sugar and railroad fortune. Alma has been
described as a controversial and semi-scandalous figure, later earning
respectability in San Francisco society, through her cultural philanthropy.
She had San Diego connections through Adolph Spreckels, a San Francisco
and Coronado business leader, and a local resident. Spreckels, the
daughter of a machinist, had tried her hand as an artist, model and
stage actress. An early breach of promise suit in 1902 was a sensational
court case. But it was a special interest in French art and culture
that impassioned her. She decided San Francisco should have a museum
devoted to French art. Thus, the California Palace Legion of Honor
became a reality. Alma often visited Putnam bringing food and gifts.
Eventually she convinced Putnam to have his works cast by the Alex
Rudier Foundry in Paris. Two sets of over one hundred pieces were
. . . . .
. . . One set she gave to her favorite
San Francisco museum and one set she and her children gave to the
San Diego Museum of Art. It has been noted that the French sculptor
Auguste Rodin agreed personally to oversee the casting in 1917, the
year of his death. The discrepancy of dating remains to be resolved.
Patricia Janis Broder wrote that the Spreckels family had taken the
casts to France in 1921. By that time however Rodin was deceased.
The San Diego bronzes (San Diego Museum of Art acq. nos. 25:3- 25:109),
are recorded as being gifts in 1925. During the time of 1917 it would
be natural to assume that, because of international conflict, men
and materials would be scarce, and Rodin could take on the task of
supervising the job prior to his death later in November that year.
What transpired between 1917 and 1925 in casting the works remains
vague. Mrs. Spreckels, personally acquainted with Rodin, was his first
and most important patron in the United States. She had acquired eighteen
bronzes by him including his well-known Thinker. In Paris she
had been introduced to him by her friend Loie Fuller, a model and
cabaret dancer and something of an icon of the Belle Epoch era at
the end of the nineteenth century in France. Loies portrait
by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is a familiar image to todays gallery
goers. According to Broder there was a mutual admiration relationship
between the American and French sculptors; Putnam had been an admirer
of Rodins work while studying earlier in France and there is
a great deal of influence to be seen in Putnams surface treatment
according to modern art commentators. Rodin is credited with pronouncing
Arthurs work as that of a master. Arthurs animals were
different from a multitude of works by anamaliers of the day who presented
their subjects in dramatic romantic poses. Putnam often selected quieter
moments such as resting cats. Earlier in southern California, Putnam
cast his own work assisted by his brother-in-law, Frederick Storey.
The artist had learned the basics of casting in Chicago and studied
the, more challenging, circe perdue (lost wax) casting technique when
he was in Italy and France. He had exhibited six wildcat bronzes at
the Paris Salon. At the 1913 watermark Armory Show in New York, four
bronzes by Putnam were included, Bacchus, Deer and Puma,
Puma Resting and Lions, lent by William Macbeth and
Mrs. F. S. McGrath. 21
. . . When Putnam suffered the tragic
end of his creative life, he underwent a complete personality change.
The charismatic, charming and good natured Arthur became cynical and
abusive. His cantankerous and critical disposition, and heavy drinking,
frightened the children. The stress became overbearing and the children
were terrified by his violent outbursts. Grace fearing for the childrens
safety eventually divorced him and returned to her art to support
herself and the family. She resumed studies at the California School
of Arts and Crafts at the University of California, Berkeley. For
several years she taught at Mills College. At the time the idea of
creating a doll representing a three day old began to develop. When
her daughter was three years old, Grace had made a doll named Peter
Pan for her. When Peter wore out she created another, Helen
Pan, extremely life-like. Her friends encouraged her to pursue
a career in doll design. She found her model in a founding home of
the Salvation Army. Time proved uncooperative and she had to finish
from memory because the features of her subject developed too quickly.
Grace marketed it in New York and met resistance by those she approached
on the grounds of ugliness. At Schwartz Toy Store she was introduced
to George Borofieldt and Company that imported toys including the
well known Kewpie Doll by Rose ONeill. The life like naturalism
of the image persuaded the company lawyer to bring the doll to the
president of the company who agreed upon a ten year contract with
its creator. Her model was sent to Germany to be cast in bisque, a
compromise on Graces part since she wanted it done in rubber.
When the first shipment came on the market in 1920, they were an instant
success. Newspaper accounts labeled it the Million Dollar
Baby. At Christmas time customers stood in line to purchase
one. The demand was so great it was impossible to keep the doll in
stock. The appearance of the classic collectible Bye-Lo- Baby doll
brought her success and some security. It provided an education for
George, a trip to Europe and a home in Sag Harbor, New York.
. . . In 1926 Grace married sculptor
Eugene Morahan, 1869-1907, a former student of Saint-Gaudens, who
worked in California during the 1930s. One son was born to the couple.
This marriage, also, ended in divorce. They would remarry five years
before her death. Continuing her work she began to concentrate on
a doll house and a miniature American family. The Depression of 1929
and World War II brought more serious concerns to the nation and ended
her concepts that were left on the drawing board. The original house
and models are in the collection of the Bower Museum, Santa Ana, California.
The Shirley Temple doll displaced the By-Lo-Baby in popularity with
subsequent dolls such as the Barbie doll of the 1950s and the Cabbage
Patch dolls of the 1980s taking their turn at popular desirability.
Like Arthur, Grace was reduced to living quietly and frugally and
working on her biography. Her death was announced prematurely. Grace
suffered a fatal stroke February 22, 1948 at her oceanfront home in
Santa Monica, California. Her doll, today, is considered a desired
collectible. From all indications she had been as famous in her field
as Arthur had been in sculpture.