top of page
Search

Bruno Zimm: Woodstock Art Colony Sculptor in the Beaux-Arts Tradition

Updated: Jul 4

 By Bruce Weber


TWO UPCOMING EVENTS


SUN. 7/14 11 A.M-NOON

A FREE FLOWING LATE MORNING CONVERSATION

ABOUT THE HISTORiC WOODSTOCK ART COLONY

(QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS)

Woodstock Mothership

6 Sergeant Quinn Drive, Woodstock


SAT 7/20 2-4 PM

COLLECTOR ARTHUR ANDERSON & BRUCE WEBER

IN CONVERSATION

AND BOOK SIGNING OF

NEW PUBLICATION

THE HISTORIC WOODSTOCK

ART COLONY

Historical Society of Woodstock

20 Comeau Dr.

Konrad Cramer (1888-1963)

Bruno Zimm, 1937

Gelatin silver print

Getty Museum

 

Bruno Zimm was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1876.(1) His parents Otto Julius Louis Zimm and Klara Amalla Olga Schorek Zimm were natives of Germany. His father had served an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker in Koenigsberg, and in New York City was the foreman of a woodworking shop specializing in interior decoration.  At 13, Zimm began studying art at the Metrpolitan Museum of Art Schools, and his talent was evident at a young age. At 15 he was introduced to the sculptor Karl Bitter, who taught him privately and later employed him as an assistant in his studio. In 1893 he supervised the installation of Bitter’s sculpture at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Unknown Photographer

Karl Bitter, 1907

Gelatin silver print

Karl Bitter (1867-1915)

Science, Administration Building,

World’s Columbian Exposition,

Chicago, 1893


Born in Austria in 1867, Bitter was best known for his architectural sculpture, memorials and residential work. He immigrated to the United States in 1889. In New York he was discovered by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, who hired him for numerous important projects. He was deeply involved with the National Sculpture Society, serving as president in 1906 and 1907. Bitter was killed in an automobile accident in 1915. Upon leaving the Metropolitan Opera, a car jumped the curb and struck him down.


In addition to receiving instruction from Bitter, Zimm studied at the Art Students League of New York from 1891-1892 and again from 1896-1897, where his teachers included John Quincy Adams Ward and Augustus St. Gaudens (whom he served as a studio assistant). He also spent time in Paris in about 1900.

 

Zimm was an exceptional athlete in his early city days, winning trophies as an oarsman with the New York Athletic Club. He had an aptitude for foreign languages, being fluent in German, French and Italian. Early in life Zimm was a member of the Socialist Party, actively supported Teddy Roosevelt’s campaign for workers compensation, worked to bring about the establishment of several public work projects, and reported court proceedings for a city newspaper.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Bruno Zimm, Jr., 1921

Plaster

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Pegasus, n.d.

Copper and Lead

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Carved Undermantlel:

(For Philadelphia Residence), c. 1940

Wood

Woodstock Artist Association Archives

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Guardian of My Fields, c. 1920

 

Following in the footsteps of his mentor Karl Bitter, Zimm worked mostly as an architectural sculptor in the Beaux-Arts tradition. Over the course of his career he also created portraits, medals, tables, carved mantle pieces, wood panels for domestic interiors, and melted small quantities of brass or bronze to make casts of small objects such as paper knives.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Winged Genius, 1901

For Windsor Arcade

(Fifth Avenue- 46-47th Streets)


In 1899, Zimm received a commission from the United States Government to create two sculptures groups for the Exposition Univeselle in Paris. In the following year, Zimm was commissioned to create a sculptural group for the Windsor Arcade on Fifth Avenue and 46th Street. His group Winged Genius surmounted the colossal portico of the terracotta and iron building designed by the architect Charles A. Berg. The Beaux-Arts structure is reminiscent stylistically of the grand buildings created in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Running along the Fifth Avenue side were 13 columns standing 30 feet tall which were capped by ornate capitals. The building was ornamented by olive branches, festoons and garlands of flower executed in terracotta. The Windsor Arcade was demolished in 1901 to make way for the headquarters of the carpet firm of R. and J. Sloane. Other early works include archtectural scupture for the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria, and a figure of an angel for Trinity Church Cemetery in lower Manhattan.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Sacajawea, 1904

Staff

View from Side


For the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, Zimm was commissioned to create a sculpture of the Native-American woman Sacajawea. Sacajawea lived on the Wind River on the Shoshone Reservation in Wyoming, and acted in the capacity of pilot, guide and interpreter to Lewis and Clark in 1805-1806. Zimm spent a year studying the literature and ethnology on the subject in preparation for doing the modeling. When the time came to procure a model typical of women of the Shoshone tribe Zimm corresponded with Reverend John Roberts of the Shoshone Reservation, who recommended he employ Virginia Grant, a student at the Carlisle Indian School. Sacajawea’s role in the expedition had been long forgotten by 1900. In her book of 1902 The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clarkthe writer Eva Emery Dye extolled her devotion to the cause of Lewis and Clark, and this praise led to her role in the expedition becoming more widely known. Karl Bitter commended Zimm’s statue as a “monument of special interest . . . erected to the memory of the Indian woman who rendered such splendid services in connection with the [Lewis-Clark] expedition.”(2)

Looking Between the Liberal Arts

And Manufacturing Buildings,

St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904

Looking Between the Liberal Arts

And Manufacturing Buildings,

St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Sacajawea, 1904

Staff


Zimm’s statue stood at the end of the esplanade between the liberal arts and manufacturing buildings at the fair. The piece was illustrated and discussed in an article in 1907 in the Journal of American History by Grace Raymond Hebard.(3) In this monument, Sacajawea looks out with a passive expression, her hands clasping a walking stick, searching the road up ahead, with a sense of calm assurance.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

General Slocum Memorial, 1906

Marble

Tomkins Square Park, New York


In 1906, Zimm was commissioned to create a modest-scaled memorial for Tompkins Square Park on New York City’s Lower East Side. The memorial was erected by private subscription to commemorate the disastrous burning of the excursion steamboat the General Slocum in 1904 on the East River, the single deadliest tragedy in New York history until September 11th, 2001. The triple decker wooden steamer was one of many steamers in the city that enabled working class people to get away from the city even for a few hours. The boat was bringing a large party of members of the Congregation of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on East 6th Street to an excursion in Long Island.


About thirty minutes into the voyage a child noticed a small fire had started in the lamp room below the main deck. It was further discovered that the firehose aboard ship was rotten to the point that it burst open when the water was turned on. The crowds surged toward the lifeboats and attempted to hoist them up, but they wouldn’t budge as someone had wired them to the wall. It was also discovered that the life preservers were filled with rotten cork. 1021 people perished on the burning vessel, which sunk in the river. The tragedy devastated the well-established German-American community on the Lower East Side.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Plaster Model for Slocum Memorial,

c. 1906, plaster,

Historical Society of Woodstock

 

The memorial’s original design was created by an unknown carver from the borough of Queens, under the auspices of the Sympathy Society of German Ladies of New York. It depicted a woman and two children watching from shore. Zimm was hired to create a new conception. He shifted the axis, tightened the design, simplified details, eliminated the older woman, enlarged the image of the young spectators, and changed the medium from bronze to marble. A small model of the memorial in the fragile material of plaster is in the collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

General Slocum Memorial, 1906

Marble

Tomkins Square Park, New York

[Close up Image]


 In the low relief we see the two young idyllic children in profile watching a steamboat in the distance. Above them is a line from the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Revolt of Islam of 1817: “They were earth’s purest children, young and fair.” The memorial was designed in the shape of a Greek stele. It features a little ornamental basin which projects from the face of the single upright block of pink Tennessee marble. Above the basin is a carved lion’s head, out of whose mouth water drips. The memorial provided comfort for those who came to mourn the victims of this great tragedy.

Bruno Zimm (1867=1943)

Memorial Fountain:

Womens Health Protective Association, 1910

Marble

Riverside Park, New York


Zimm was commissioned in 1909 to create a memorial fountain in Riverside Park for the Woman’s Health Protective Association. It stands at the corner of West 116th Street and Riverside Drive, facing Columbia University. The memorial commemorated the 25th anniversary of the association, and features a 11-foot marble stele, a drinking fountain, and benches on either side.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Memorial Fountain:

Womens Health Protective Association, 1910

Marble

Riverside Park, New York

[Close-Up Image]

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Model for Memorial Fountain, c. 1909

Plaster

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum


The Woman’s Health Protective Association was formed in 1884 by a group of prominent reform minded women who were interested in improving the city’s general public health. The memorial was unveiled on May 10, 1910 in a ceremony honoring the progress the organization had achieved toward the betterment of the health of the public. In the sculpture’s dignified and delicately carved low relief two women stand above the semi-circular basin, their heads framed by masses of leaves. The women hold a lamp between them – symbolic of the group’s shedding of light on health issues. The trough below the fountain is meant to supply water to thirsty dogs. A plaster model for the memorial is in the collection of the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

John Finnegan Memorial

Glenwood Cemetery, c. 1910

Houston, Texas

Annette Finnegan


In around 1910, Zimm was commissioned to create a memorial to John Finnegan for the Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, Texas. It was commissioned by Finnegan’s daughter Annette, a suffragette and major philanthropist, who donated land for Finnegan Park in the city’s Fifth Ward, and a major book collection to the Houston Public Library.


The bronze bas relief features a female figure holding a veil above her head. The base is incised with images of irises, cattails and rocks. A pool juts out below the classically rendered figure’s feet. A matching pair of planter urns stand at either end of the base. The monument is set in marble, and is distinguished by its simplicity, clean and elegant lines, and graceful and dignified ornamentation.

Former Home of Bruno Zimm, Lewis Hollow


In about 1910, Zimm and his first wife Roddie settled in Woodstock. They had suffered financial losses in the bank panic of 1907, and now sought to make a real estate investment that would both benefit them commercially and provide the opportunity for them to grow their own food. The Zimms purchased an abandoned farm consisting of 79 acres on the outskirts of the village in Lewis Hollow (now upper Lewis Hollow Road), where they planted an apple orchard, and for several years sold apples commercially. Grace Mott Johnson and Andrew Dasburg also settled in the area around this time. Artists Alexander Brook, Peggy Bacon, Ethel Magafan, Bruce Currie, artist and writer Norman Towar Boggs, and historian Alf Evers also lived for periods in the area.(5) (Continuing to live there are the artist Jennie Currie and former director of the Woodstock Public Library D. J. [Boggs] Stern.)

Former Bruno Zimm House and Grounds


The Zimms initially lived in the farmhouse on the property which had been built in the mid-19th century by local quarrymen. The building has been remodeled and expanded over the past century by Zimm and later owners, but the original structure essentially remains intact inside. Over the course of three decades Zimm worked mostly with his own hands to construct and decorate the property with sculpture, including carvings in wood and stone (some from the bluestone quarry on his property), and transformed it into one of Woodstock’s most magnificent artist houses.

Sculptural and Architectural Details, Former Bruno Zimm House


Zimm began by joining together the four-room farmhouse and the separate summer kitchen. He created a stone terrace with field-stone pillars, which are built around three sides of the joined farmhouse and kitchen. The frame of the original front door features images of woodland creatures. He attached sculptural reliefs to the stuccoed façades. He pierced the roof with dormer windows with carved frames. Beneath the roof sculpted faces peer from wooden and stone columns. Zimm placed panels with poetic texts above fireplaces. A relief featuring an image of his collie (pictured close to beginning of this clip post) originally hung above one of the mantlepiece’s. Outside the house he built three fountains featuring stone carvings. Originally he set up a studio in part of an old barn. Later he built an attached studio and study on the north-east side of the original structure, which has since been replaced.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Cover, The Plowshare,

July 1917

Woodstock Library District

 

In 1916, Zimm joined the Woodstock School of Metal Work, which was founded about this time by painter, metalsmith and jewelry maker Edmund B. Rolfe. He conductee classes in applied sculpture, carving in plaster and stone, casting in plaster, and the making of scale models for memorials and decorative mantels. Also teaching at the school was metalsmith Captain Henry Lang Jenkinson. A notice for this short-lived school appears in the December 1916 issue of the Maverick periodical The Plowshare.  Zimm created a cover design of a man’s head in profile for the issue of July 1917.

 

By 1919, Zimm had divorced his first wife, and married Louise Seymour Hasbrouck. After attending Wellesley College, Louise established a name for herself as a writer of non-fiction. Over the course of her life she authored a history of Mexico, biographies of Israel Putnam and Robert de La Salle, and novels and short stories for young readers, including At the Sign of the Wild Horses, published in 1930, which was set in the Woodstock vicinity. Louise was one of the founders of the Historical Society of Woodstock (contributing articles to its pamphlet series on topics of local history), and also worked as a genealogist, specializing in Ulster County families. After Zimm’s death she worked as a researcher at the library of the New York Genealogy Society in New York City.

Richard Orjis (b. 1979)

Milton and Shirley Glaser, 2004

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Study for Madonna and Child, c. 1930

Polychrome plaster

Woodstock Artists Association

and Museum


In 1962 Louise sold the property on Lewis Hollow Road to the designer Milton Glaser and his wife Shirley. The Glasers generously donated to the Woodstock Artists Association Zimm’s plaster model for his memorial in Riverside Park, a polychrome plaster study of a Madonna and child dating from about 1930, and his slightly sleepy-eyed plaster portrait of Bruno Zimm, Jr. of 1921.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Struggles of the Beautiful: Stone Relief Panels,

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California, 1915


A few years after moving to Woodstock, Zimm was commissioned to create a bronze frieze for the entablature of the octagonal rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts at the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco. The structure still stands in the city’s marina district. The low relief panels represent the “Struggles of the Beautiful.” A critic remarked that “There are no reliefs [in the exposition] more classically inspired than are these superb [allegorical] reliefs by Bruno Zimm. . . ,” and noted that in his panel featuring Pegasus beside him “march the Arts – Literature, holding aloft her symbol, the lamp; Sculpture extending in front of her the statuette, a devotee admiring, and Music leading the procession . . . . Mr. Zimm has been most successful in the fine working out of his subject in a classical way, for the style of relief work accords well in felling with the superb classic architecture it decorates.”(4)

Interior of St Pancras, Glendale Section of Brooklyn

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Doctors of the Church, St. Pancras, Brooklyn, 1920s


In the course of the 1920s, Zimm received a commission to create statuary for St. Pancras’s Roman Catholic Church at 88th street and Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn. The church outgrew its original facilities, and a large separate building was erected at the time in a Romanesque style. Zimm created reliefs of various saints, including for the poor boxes located on door jambs.

St. Clements Church, Philadelphia

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Station of the Cross, 1930-1933

St. Clemens Church, Philadelphia


In around 1930, Zimm was commissioned to create a series of Stations of the Cross for St. Clemens Church on Applebee Street in Philadelphia. During the rectorship of Father Franklin Joiner renovations and additions were made to the church. Zimm garnered the commission with the help of Douglas Braik, a neighbor on Lewis Hollow Road. Braik was a partner in the architectural firm of Sellars and Braik, who oversaw the work on the church. Initially, Zimm created rough pencil sketches of each station, and then modeled them in clay at about ¼ scale. Using the small panels as his guide he cast them in plaster, and then tinted them to resemble the color of the sandstone the architectural firm chose for the interior of the church.

Bruno Zimm (1867-1943)

Table with Aquarias, The Wood Bearer, c. 1940

Bluestone

Woodtock Artists Association Archives


During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Zimm had difficulty garnering major architectural commissions. Over the course of the decade he received a modest commission to carve a three-foot-high bust in wood of Robert E. Lee, for which he used a model that he made years before. At this time he also designed stone and wrought iron tables with the tops decorated with signs of the Zodiac, and carved small female figures in limestone. Under the inspiration of local sculptor Tomas Penning he occasionally carved in bluestone.

Shotwell Monument, Artists Cemetery, 1947-1948

Zimm designed the base

before his death in 1943.

Bruno Zimm Gravestone, Artists Cemetery, Woodstock


Zimm was active in many local civic organizations. Along with his wife Louise he was a founding member of the Historical Society of Woodstock. He also was a founder of the Woodstock Memorial Association (best known as the Woodstock Artists Cemetery), where he designed the base of the Shotwell Monument, and carved his own gravestone. He served as president of the Woodstock library for several years, and was a founder and trustee of the Woodstock Guild of Craftsmen.  He was largely responsible for having the town records copied and preserved, and ran unsuccessfully in 1937 for Town Supervisor. While living here he developed a major interest in geology, and formed an extensive collection of fossils, mostly collected from a formation along state highway 9W in Glenerie, which he donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Konrad Cramer (1888-1963)

Bruno Zimm, 1937

Gelatin silver print

Getty Museum


Zimm died in 1943 while in the course of working on a commission for a chapel at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Following his death, the artist, writer and first female town supervisor of Woodstock, Marion Bullard, wrote: “Creative men like Bruno Zimm do not stop with the carving in stone and wood. He can be said to have hewn out of life something as well shaped and beautiful in the hearts of his friends as ever he envisioned or aspired to make out of wood or stone. Perhaps the best and greatest epitaph for anyone is the simple one – a good friend. Looking back down the years, I can remember no time when Bruno failed to respond to the needs of anyone who appealed to him for help. . . . During the later years, he sometimes said to me, ‘I must not take on anything more. After all, I have my own work to do.’ Then, at once, he took on something more for [the] neighbors of his community.”(5)


(1) For a valuable general biography and brief survey of Bruno Zimm's career see Bruno Hasbrouck Zimm, "Bio Notes om Bruno Lewis Zimm," unpublished article, Bruno Zimm files, Woodstock Artists Association Archives.

(2) Ann Rogers, Louis and Clark in Missouri (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missoui, 1981), p. 179,

(3) Grace Raymon Heberd, "Pilot of the First White Man to Cruise the American Continernt," The Journal of American History, vol. 1 (1987): pp 467-486.

(4) Michael Rafferty, "Bell Tower: 'Jewel City' is a Gem of a Art Show," Mt. Democrat, November 2, 2015, p. 1. See http://www.mtdemocrat.com/opinion/belltower-jewel-sity-is-a-gem-of-an-art-show,

(5) Marion Bullard, "Sparks," Ulster County News, November 24, 1993, p. 4.



 

 

96 views1 comment

1 Comment


Wonderful article. Well documented and interesting!

Like
bottom of page