Thursday, March 16, 2017

Una Hanbury: Sculptress Extraordinaire

Una Hanbury
Lioness and Cubs
ca. 1984
Rio Grande Zoo
Albuquerque Public Art Program
Albuquerque, New Mexico
After a long and unintended break from exploring talented women artists in history, let's check out sculptor Una Hanbury (1904-1990). I connect with her because, as I have done, Hanbury had several careers and even lived in Washington, D.C. before she ended up out an artist.

Una Hanbury
Phoenix Rising from Ashes
ca. n.d.
Hanbury was born Una Rawnsley in Middlesex, England in 1904, and grew up primarily in Kent County, UK. Her grandfather was Hardwicke Rawnsley, a Church of England clergyman, poet, hymn writer, local politician, and conservationist. He was also one of the founders of the National Trust. 

Hanbury exhibited artistic talent when she was quite young and received instruction from animal artist Frank Calderon. When she reached fourteen years old, she attended the London Polytechnic School of Art after which she studied for three years at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Sir Jacob Epstein, an American sculptor who championed many concepts central to the modernist sculpture movement was her most influential teacher. During this period, Hanbury learned the art of stone cutting on the Italian island of Capri.

Una Hanbury married her first husband, Anthony H.R.C. Hanbury, a stockbroker, in 1926, and retired from her art career to raise a family. She later divorced Hanbury, left England with the children at the outbreak of World War II, and settled in Bermuda in 1940. Hanbury relocated to Washington D.C. in 1944 to work for the British Embassy. After the war she became a real estate broker and general contractor until she married again in 1957 to Alan Cotsworth Brown. 

Una Hanbury
Lying Horse Foal
ca. n.d.
After some time in Canada, she resumed her artistic endeavors and studied painting at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, Academie Julian, and L'Atelier de Vieux, located in Paris. Her interest in sculpture was stimulated by a piece she created while using her youngest stepdaughter as a model. When she returned to Washington in 1961, she had to address personal and professional issues before exploring sculpture as her medium of choice. 

Beginning in the mid-1960s until 1982 or '83, Hanbury produced an impressive body of work in bronze, cast aluminum, stone, terracotta, and marble. 
Image result for una hanbury
Georgia O'Keeffe posing for Una Hanbury
ca. 1967
Unidentified Photographer
Una Hanbury
Bust of Rachel Carson
ca. 1965
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.
Hanbury resumed her sculpting career, completing a number of large-scale commissions for public buildings such as the Medical Examiners Building, Baltimore, and St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Springfield, Virginia. She developed a fine reputation as a portrait sculptor, and commissions included busts of Rachel Carson, Enrico Fermi, Buckminster Fuller, Laura Gilpin, Richard Neutra, Georgia O'Keeffe, Robert Oppenheimer, S. Dillon Ripley, and AndrĂ©s Segovia. In addition, animals--particularly horses--were a favorite subject since childhood; sculptures were commissioned by several zoos, and horse portraits often were commissioned by owners. She had solo exhibitions at the Folger Shakespeare Library and National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. in 1971.

Una Hanbury
Circle of Three Lamas
ca. 1970
Potomac School, Washington, D.C.
In 1970, Una Hanbury relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she continued working well into old age and became a significant force in the art life of that region. Her western themes included animals, both domestic and wild and Native Americans.

Una Hanbury
Navajo Land
ca. n.d.
Hanbury exhibited in shows at the Royal Academy, London; Salon d'Automne, Paris; Religious Art Commission, Washington, D.C.; Mostra d'Arte Moderna, Camaiore, Italy; NAD; National Arts Club, New York; and National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City. Her papers are in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marion Yoshiki-Kovinick, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998, p. 125.
The Potomac School,, retrieved March 16, 2017.
Public Art Archive,, retrieved March 16, 2017.