Monumental Dreams: The Life and Sculpture of Ann Norton

Monumental Dreams: The Life and Sculpture of Ann Norton

Monumental Dreams: The Life and Sculpture of Ann Norton

Monumental Dreams: The Life and Sculpture of Ann Norton


"Seebohm brings her exceptional gift for storytelling to the life of this important but underknown American artist."--Graham Boettcher, William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art, Birmingham Museum of Art

"A fascinating story. It is also the history of the intense struggle between figurative and abstract sculpture in mid-twentieth-century art, a struggle that still continues to this day."--Edwina Sandys, artist and winner of the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists Award for Excellence

"Brings together all the unique chapters of Ann Norton''s life. Seebohm is not afraid to share with the reader Norton''s disappointments, successes, and her final legacy."--Cynthia Palmieri, executive director, Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, Inc.


For over twenty-five years, people have traveled from all over the world to visit the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach, Florida. Here they can explore mysterious, magical, large-scale works made of brick and granite positioned throughout the lush, native landscape. These gardens provide a rare opportunity to engage a sculptor''s complete vision, to experience the work in its true and intended setting.nbsp;

Ann Norton (1905-1982) was born in Selma, Alabama, to a distinguished land-owning family. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she dreamed of being an artist and moved to New York in the early 1930s to study.nbsp; Deeply interested in exploring the intersection of abstract art and realism, she studied with John Hovannes and Jose de Creeft and was briefly studio assistant to Alexander Archipenko. Her own pieces were well received, and by age 35, her work had already beeo companionship, partnership, and love. After his death, Ann Norton erected her finest and lasting work on the property he left behind, his generous legacy to her. Today, her monolithic sculptures--in the spirit of Stonehenge, Henry Moore, and Buddhist temple art--are known worldwide. Norton once indicated that the colossal monuments now standing in the Sculpture Gardens had existed clearly in her mind since she was a young girl, but without a space,nbsp; home, or funds to realize her vision, they would never have materialized.

In this first-ever biography of an important twentieth-century artist, Caroline Seebohm tells the inspiring story of how Norton--a child of the South who eschewed her roots for the cosmopolitan world of New York City and beyond--paved her own way to become an artist and sculptor whose work encapsulates andnbsp; transcends the modernist movement.


Ann vaughan weaver was born in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama, on May 2, 1905. Her parents belonged to the three dominant families in Selma at the time—the Weavers, the Minters, and the Vaughans, all of whom who lived in the center of the South’s black belt, so-called for its rich, fertile, cotton-loving soil.

Ann’s great-grandfather, Philip J. Weaver, whose German antecedents came from Maryland, was perhaps the most famous Selma native in its history. Born in 1797, he was famous for several things: for being the first permanent white settler in Selma and also the richest man in the region, thanks to an entrepreneurial talent for running cotton plantations (at one time he had over seven hundred slaves working for him); for looking outside his home territory and buying real estate that extended from Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas to New York City; and for sustaining various other businesses that flourished before the Civil War.

Described admiringly by the local newspaper as “Selma’s merchant prince,” Philip Weaver started out running a general store, trading mostly with the local Native Americans. in 1827 he funded Selma’s first newspaper, and in 1837 he pledged $100,000 (a lot of money in those days) to help build a railroad from Selma to Montgomery. in the 1840s he went to Germany to recruit skilled workers for his projects, and by the early 1850s at least three hundred German and Jewish immigrants had settled in Selma. He built a splendid house on the corner of Lauderdale and Water Streets . . .

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