. . . Here he worked on his only private commission for Scripp’s 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 Putnam’s 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 Scripp’s 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 cast.

. . . . .

. . . 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. Loie’s portrait by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is a familiar image to today’s gallery goers. According to Broder there was a mutual admiration relationship between the American and French sculptors; Putnam had been an admirer of Rodin’s work while studying earlier in France and there is a great deal of influence to be seen in Putnam’s surface treatment according to modern art commentators. Rodin is credited with pronouncing Arthur’s work as that of a master. Arthur’s 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 children’s 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 O’Neill. 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 Grace’s 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.


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