Cooper Hewitt says...

Artist and designer William Hunt Diederich was born on May 3, 1884, in Szent-Grot, then in Austria-Hungary. His father, Colonel Ernest Diederich, died tragically in a hunting accident when Hunt Diederich was just three years old. Hunt Diederich would later say that “his only recollection of his father was that he was devoted to horses and dogs.” His mother Eleanor Hunt moved the family to Switzerland in 1889, where Hunt Diederich studied first at the Silig School in Vevey and the Auchtenthaler School in Lausanne. In 1900, he moved to Boston to live in the home of his maternal grandfather, William Morris Hunt, who was well known for having introduced the Barbizon school of landscape painting to an American audience. Hunt Diederich continued his education in the United States at both the Milton Academy and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Hunt Diederich nurtured an interest in animal forms early in his childhood in Switzerland, influenced by a strong local tradition of paper cutting and silhouette. In 1904, Hunt Diederich left America for Paris, where he studied with sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet, the animalier at the Museé d’Histoire Naturelle in the Jardin des Plantes. He returned to the United States the following year, traveling throughout the American West with the aim of experiencing life as a cowboy. He spent time living on a ranch in Wyoming before exploring the Southwest, particularly Arizona and New Mexico. On May 8, 1905, he became an American citizen.

From 1906–08, Hunt Diederich was enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). During this time, he studied drawing and life modeling and began producing and exhibiting sculpture. A trip to Spain with fellow student Paul Manship during the summer of 1907 to witness bullfighting remained an important influence throughout his career.

PAFA dismissed Hunt Diederich in 1908 from PAFA for the use of “improper language” in a coeducational classroom, and he again returned to Europe, living at times in Paris and Rome, and exhibiting in the 1910 and 1911 Spring Salons in Paris. In 1912, he was the subject of a monographic exhibition in Rome, and in 1913, he exhibited a plaster sculpture “Greyhounds” at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. The sculpture was a hit with critics, including Guillaume Apollinaire and Louis Vauxcelles. Hunt Diederich met and married his first wife Maruschka during his time in Europe. He exhibited at the 1913 Salon des Indépendents and Chevalier before returning to America.

After settling in New York in December 1914, Hunt Diederich worked in a variety of media, including textile design, metalwork, and pottery. He was especially prolific in metalwork, creating gates, firescreens, fountains, and lamps. He also consistently exhibited his drawings, and some were included in his first one-man exhibition at the Kingore Galleries in 1920, which featured 88 works, most with animal and sporting subjects. He was active in a circle of artists that include Elie Nadelman, George Biddle, Paul Manship, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Throughout the 1920s, Hunt Diederich continued to work to great acclaim. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, and the Whitney Museum acquired his work during this period. Though his first marriage ended in divorce, Hunt Diederich had two children by his first wife. In 1923, he married Countess Wanda von Goetzcn, with whom he had two more children.

In the 1930s, Hunt Diederich worked on major public commissions in New York City, including metalwork for the Central Park Zoo, Bronx Zoo, and the Forest Hills train station. Hunt Diederich also continued to work on private commissions and exhibited throughout the next decade in both the United States and Europe, continuing to work successfully for much of the 1940s. However, Hunt Diederich was formally expelled from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1947 for sending mail that contained anti-Semitic statements on the Institute’s letterhead. (Hunt Diederich was first acquitted in a related case in Federal Court). In 1953, Hunt Diederich died while still at work on a commission for an exterior bas-relief for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City.


Diederich, William Hunt, and Emily Lenz. 2005. W. Hunt Diedrich (1884-1953). New York: D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc.

"William Hunt Diederich (1884-1953)." William Hunt Diederich | D. Wigmore Fine Art. Accessed September 05, 2017.