New Research on Cyrus Dallin’s Student: Sculptor Bruce Wilder Saville (1893-1939)

Written by Dallin Museum Intern, Claudia Haines, October 20, 2021

It’s a well-established fact that Cyrus Dallin was, in addition to being a talented artist, a capable and beloved teacher: affectionately known as “Cyrus the Great” by the hundreds of students he mentored during his four-decade tenure at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (now the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, or MassArt), Dallin’s wise and gentle approach to teaching inspired a love of sculpture in innumerable aspiring artists. But up until recently, little has been known about Dallin’s students, even those who went on to become renowned professional artists themselves. My research this summer has aimed to shed new light on a few of Dallin’s mentees. A particularly interesting figure, I think, is Bruce Wilder Saville.

Saville was born to George and Caroline Saville in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1893. After graduating from Quincy High School, he enrolled in MassArt, where he found his first mentor in Dallin. Saville then spent time studying sculpture in France, but with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he paused his artistic career in order to serve with the French Ambulance Corps, later transferring to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when the United States entered the war. In a 1919 article in the Boston Globe, Saville reflected on his experiences in wartime France, commenting that while he was generally happy during his military service, “It was nothing but war every day. That was what we went in for.”

Upon the end of WWI in 1918, Saville returned to Quincy and resumed his artistic practice, continuing his studies in the studio of Theodora Alice Ruggles Kitson. After a brief stint in New York City, Saville moved to Columbus, Ohio, spending most of the 1920s there. He was appointed head of the Art Department at Ohio State University in 1921, and also taught sculpture for several years at the Columbus Art School. In the 1930s, Saville relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he spent the rest of his life. He passed away in 1939 following a difficult bout of influenza.

Over the course of his career, Saville proved to have a lot in common with his original mentor, Cyrus Dallin. Like Dallin, and perhaps also inspired by his own wartime experiences, Saville produced a number of celebrated memorial sculptures, including the Peace and Victory Monument (Glens Falls, NY, 1927), the Doughboy Memorial, Quincy, MA, 1924), and Peace (Columbus, OH, 1922). He, like Dallin, was also an accomplished portrait sculptor of both historical and contemporary figures. A notable work in this genre is Saville’s 1926 bronze relief honoring John and John Quincy Adams at Merrymount Park in Quincy, MA.

Another commonality between the two artists is their shared interest in Native American themes: both men produced several sculptures inspired by their interactions with Indigenous communities (Dallin in his native Utah and Saville in New Mexico). Saville’s Buffalo Dance (Pueblo Indian), Hopi Snake Dance, and Pueblo Indian Deer Dancers are all preserved today in the New Mexico Museum of Art. A more complete list of Saville’s extant works can be found on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Art Inventories Catalog, as well as the New Mexico Museum of Art’s online catalog.

Clearly, Saville was deeply impacted by his years studying under Cyrus Dallin, both in his work and in his life. He is only one member of an entire generation of artists whose careers were shaped by Dallin’s teaching. Hopefully, further research will shed even more light on Dallin’s many students, and the ways in which they carried on his artistic legacy through their own work.

Museum Receives Grant from the Arlington Cultural Council to Restore Cyrus Dallin Self Portrait

March 14, 2021
We are grateful to the Arlington Cultural Council for their generous grant to support the restoration of a c. 1915 self portrait by Cyrus Dallin. The painting is now under the care of conservator Peter Williams of Peter Williams Museum Services in Boston, where it will be cleaned, relined with a new canvas backing, and in-painted to correct areas of loss.

This work was generously donated to the Museum by the descendants of​ ​Cyrus Dallin’s sister, Daisy Dallin Southworth. It is the only self portrait by the sculptor known to exist. Cyrus Dallin depicts himself in​ ​middle age, with his dark hair graying​ ​at the temples and a silver goatee. He appears introspective and slightly​ ​weary. Perhaps at the time of its painting, Dallin was feeling the​ ​weight of his many commitments to his​ ​art, his students, and his family?​

Daisy Dallin
Daisy Dallin with her daughter Alice
Smithson’s children, Jane and Jack.

Cyrus gifted the portrait to his only​ ​sister, Daisy. She ​and her husband C.K. (Sid) Southworth ran Castilla Hot Springs, a resort in​ S​panish Fork Canyon, Utah where​ ​visitors enjoyed the healing waters,​ ​dancing, music, and other activities.​ ​Daisy’s daughter Alice Southworth Smithson inherited the painting from​ ​her mother, and Alice’s grandchildren​ ​Jacqueline Dennis, Deborah Kagay,​ ​Diane Magid, and Roger Smithson​ ​gifted it to the Dallin Museum.

We are looking forward to exhibiting this painting in the Museum for our community and future generations of Dallin family members to learn from and enjoy. Stay tuned for details on a public unveiling this fall!

The Arlington Cultural Council is a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

Dallin Sculpture Found Hidden in Plain Site

March 4, 2021
Andrew Jay, one of CDAM’s board directors, recently came across an article in the 1910 Christian Science Register about the unveiling of Cyrus Dallin’s portrait of Rev. Francis B. Hornbrooke at Channing Unitarian Church in Newton, Mass. Hornbrooke served as the Church’s pastor from 1879-1900. We had assumed that the bust remained in this location, but Andrew’s research revealed that the Channing Church is no longer active. This could have been very bad news. The sculpture could have been given to a family member, lost, or even destroyed. 

The Channing Church merged with the First Unitarian Society in Newton in 1945. Today it is known as the First Unitarian Universalist Society. A call to the Society revealed no knowledge of the sculpture or its whereabouts. This turn of events did not bode well.  

Luckily, a Society staff member graciously reached out to their historian who promptly contacted Andrew to report that the sculpture was in the care of the Newton Public Library. An introduction was also made to the library employee who oversees the surprisingly rich art collection.  

The next day, Andrew visited the library and was happy to see the sculpture prominently displayed on the second floor. It is in beautiful condition! The sizable work is striking for its lifelike appearance and detail. This is a remarkable find, as it is one of very few Dallin marbles in existence. (Most of his works are castings in bronze and plaster.) We are also happy to report that our hunt for Hornbrooke has led to discussions about future collaborations between the Newton Public Library and Dallin Museum.

Newsletter Archive

Our Spring 2020 issue of The Scout is full of exciting news and updates. Read about the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s nomination of James McGough and Geri Tremblay as Citizens of the Year and our recent acquisition of a rare self portrait of Cyrus Dallin and a plaster sculpture group entitled The Last Council. Learn about a previously unknown seal designed by Dallin for Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge (now Buckingham, Brown & Nichols) and a generous grant from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation. Explore our new virtual learning resources and enjoy highlights and photos from our winter programs.

Past Issues:

The Scout, Fall/Winter 2019. Highlights: recap of visit with Lakota youth from the Pine Ridge Reservation, remembering museum treasurer Paul McGaffigan, spotlight interview with Barry Sloane and Linda Sloane Kay of Century Bank, and Art on the Green recap.

The Scout, Summer 2019. Highlights: Acquisition of a rare portrait by Dallin entitled Mrs. Hall’s Letter, Whittemore Park Revitalization Plan, generous gift from the Joan Pearson Watkins Revocable Trust, and MFA symposium recap.

The Scout, Winter 2018/19. Highlights: 20th anniversary celebration recap, unveiling of new paintings exhibit and portrait bust of Charles Lindbergh, spotlight interview with Coley Harden of Winchester Co-operative Bank, and remembering longtime Select Board member and Museum champion Kevin Greeley.

The Scout, Fall 2018. Highlights: Jim McGough and the founding of the Dallin Museum, Lakota YouthStay visit, Summer Soiree recap, and Spotlight Interview with Rob Mirak of Mirak Automotive Group.

The Scout, Summer 2018. Highlights: New research on Dallin’s activism for the rights of Native peoples, sneak peak at Dallin’s bust of Charles Lindbergh, and Town of Arlington-funded restoration of Menotomy Hunter and Robbins Memorial Flagstaff.