Wilhelm Hunt Diederich

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Wilhelm Hunt Diederich
Born 3 May 1884(1884-05-03)
Szent-Grót (Zalaszentgrót), Western Transdanubia, Austria-Hungary
Died 14 May 1953 (aged 69)
Tappan (or Nyack), New York, United States
Occupation Sculptor, painter, draftsman
Spouse(s) ∞ 1912 Mary von Anders
∞ 1924 Wanda Luise Gräfin von Götzen
Children 4

Wilhelm Hunt Diederich (sometimes called William in the USA; 3 May 1884 – 14 May 1953) was a German American artist. His beautiful bronze "Diana and Hound" was sold by British auction house Christie's New York Saleroom in May 2017 for $391,500.


Wilhelm Hunt Diederich, Antelope and Hound, 1916.png
Wilhelm Hunt Diederich.jpeg
Stag Attacked by Hounds, Hunt Diederich, c. 1920.jpg
Wilhelm Hunt Diederich III.jpeg

Diederich spent his childhood on his parents' estate, but lost his father, a noted German officer and horseman who was killed in a hunting accident when Wilhelm was only three years old, in 1887. Theirs was a rarefied world of polo matches and stag hunts, exotic hounds and regal animals. Wilhelm recalled an early memory:

“As a child of five I embarked upon my artistic career by cutting out silhouettes of animals with a pair of broken-pointed scissors....”

He visited Swiss schools for wealthy young students before joining, at the age of 16 (together with his younger brother Kurt; 1888–1913), his grandparents in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts and became an American citizen. His early artistic inclinations were supported by his Family, but he was not interested in a formal art education. After two years of studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania, he travelled to Spain, Africa, Rome and Paris, where he studied with the sculptor Frémiet and also successfully completed his first exhibited sculptures. He truthfully declared in 1920:

“I love animals first, last and always.... Animals seem to me truly plastic. They possess such supple, unspoiled rhythm.”

Diederich was well enough established in Paris to exhibit work in both the 1910 and 1911 spring Salons, and a large bronze group entitled Greyhounds received great acclaim in the 1913 Salon d'Automne. He existed comfortably in the artist's milieu of Paris, moving freely between French artists, the Polish-born Eliasz "Elie" Nadelman, and the Russian Alexander Archipenko (in later years in New York, Nadelman and Archipenko again became Diederich's good friends). Archipenko had introduced him to a young Russian art student, Mary de Anders ("Maruschka"), whom Diederich married in 1912. Sometime after the commencement of World War I in 1914, the Diederichs immigrated to the United States, settling in New York.

The somewhat academic strain of Diederich's aesthetic, most completely expressed in the bronze casts he produced after returning to the States, brought him critical approval and patronage. Soon after arriving in New York, he galvanized a group of friends into helping him place a cast of Greyhounds on a vacant pedestal in Central Park as an offering to the city. Officials regarded the act as trespassing; the piece was unceremoniously removed and damaged by an indignant constabulary. Diederich's nighttime Bohemian prank, reported widely in the local press, garnered useful publicity for his work, which was being featured at the time in a midtown gallery show.

Hunt Diederich was the son of an American mother—a member of the prominent Hunt family of Boston—and a Prussian cavalry officer. Diederich spent his early years on an estate in Hungary, where his father bred and trained horses for the Prussian army until his death in 1887. Diederich attended Swiss schools before coming to America in about 1900 to live with his maternal grandfather, the artist William Morris Hunt. Diederich's early artistic leanings were encouraged by his family, and he took classes at the Boston Art School in 1903. Formal education, however, held little interest for him. He attended Milton Academy but left without graduating and headed west to work as a cowboy [in Arizona and Wyoming]. Both his childhood years in Hungary and the time spent in the American West would influence his concentration on animal subjects for his sculptures. In 1906 Diederich enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was awarded a prize two years later for his Bronco Buster. This honor could not save the day, however, when Diederich used "improper language in a class composed of men and women," which led to his being expelled from the Academy. He then traveled in Spain, Africa, and Rome before setting up a studio in Paris and undertaking study with the sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet, one of the most renowned animaliers in France. In 1910 and 1911 Diederich's work was exhibited in the Paris spring Salons, and two years later his bronze sculpture Greyhounds was widely praised at the Salon d'Automne. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Diederich moved to New York City. During this period dogs and horses were his preferred subjects. By 1917 he was also exhibiting a wide range of decorative functional objects in wrought iron, such as firescreens and trivets, whose imagery included polo players, deer, and hounds. Diederich's art caught the eye of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and her associate Juliana Force, who exhibited his work at the Whitney Studio Club (forerunner of the Whitney Museum of American Art). Throughout the 1920s Diederich's work was shown at several New York galleries, and in 1922 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Architectural League for design and craftsmanship. Diederich later lived in Germany, Spain, and Mexico before returning to New York in 1941 when World War II began. The artist's pro-German leanings and dissemination of anti-Semitic literature[1] sullied his reputation in his final years, and he produced little work.[2]

In just a few years, he was able to earn a good reputation for his work, gained a reputation and was very successful. But he was also a gifted painter, draftsman, ceramist and creator of extraordinary sculptures. His paper cutouts are famous. His work was part of the art competitions at the 1928 Summer Olympics and the 1932 Summer Olympics.[3] After marrying Wanda Gräfin von Götzen, he bought large parts of Burgthann Castle near Nuremberg in Bavaria and carried out extensive renovations. In the 1930s, he spent some time in the castle with family and artist friends. Here he also founded his only permanent studio. During this time he took part in a number of exhibitions in New York. Until 1941, his work and life focused on Germany, Spain and Mexico, before he returned to New York in 1941. In 1950, he came to Burgthann again, but only stayed briefly and returned to America.

Diederich’s devotion to paper cutting, begun at the age of five, continued throughout his career. The paper cutouts proved to be closely related to his wrought-iron works. Because the two-dimensional, silhouetted, design-oriented aesthetic was identical in both mediums, the artist found he could experiment with forms in paper first, then easily transfer them to the more robust medium. This is not to imply the silhouettes were merely studies; they were indeed finished works in their own right. Both mediums conveyed the same fluidity and spontaneity, and thus were appreciated for the same reasons. The wrought-iron and silhouettes are simply two very different mediums with a shared aesthetic, making them inextricably entwined within the artist’s oeuvre. Diederich’s paper cutouts capture the distinctive sense of animation and vitality so specific to his art. They are elaborate, fragile, and cut with startling precision, transforming the simplest of mediums into works of great complexity. As with his wrought-iron, the forms are carefully attenuated and generalized, yet close inspection reveals an astounding degree of detail, leaving the viewer in awe of the skill and patience on display. These slender—as Brinton described, “aristocratic”—forms are similar to his friend Elie Nadelman’s, both significantly influenced by American folk art. Indeed, the urge to cut paper into decorative or narrative shapes and attach it to a contrasting background appears to be nearly universal among cultures with paper technology. The technique has been documented as early as first-century China. Straddling definition between art and craft, the process has different names in different languages—Wycinanki in Poland, Mon-Kiri in Japan, Decouper in France and Scherenschnitte in German-speaking Europe. The craft migrated to colonial America with immigrants from Germany and Switzerland who settled in Pennsylvania and became popularly known as the Pennsylvania Dutch (the latter, a corruption of “Deutsch” meaning German, the language they spoke). Paper cutting continues to thrive today, notably in German-speaking Switzerland.[4]

Exhibitions (selection)

  • Painting and Sculpture by Living Americans (3 December 1930 to 20 January 1931)
  • American Painting and Sculpture, 1862–1932 (31 October 1932 to 11 February 1933)
  • Three Centuries of American Art (24 May to 31 July 1938)[5]


Wilhelm Hunt Diederich died in 1953, just a relatively short time after the deaths of his two wives and his son Harold Michael. He was buried at Saint Catharines Cemetery in Blauvelt, Rockland County, New York. His works are held in the permeant collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Smithsonian, Washington D.C. and the Whitney Museum, among many others.


Wilhelm was the son of German officer of the Prussian Army Ernst Curt Sigismond Diederich (1851–1887) and his American wife Eleanor "Ellen", née Hunt (1858–1941).



He first married Baltic German (allegedly born in the Russian Empire) Maruschka "Maria"/"Mary" von Anders on 31 August 1912. They were the parents of one son (William) and one daughter. Mary hated the US and wanted to return to Europe. They divorced in 1922, and he founded a new home in France for his divorced wife and two children. Mary's sister was costume designer and painter Alice Clara "Alette" von Anders (1888–1937), married to German artist Ernst Moritz Engert (1892–1986). Alette and Ernst Moritz (three children, two sons, both in WWII) even lived for some time at Burgthann Castle at the invitation of brother-in-law Wilhelm Hunt Diederich. They also worked together, Diederich drew and Engert cut the silhouettes.

Countess Wanda

On 18 May 1924 in Berlin, he married his second wife, Wanda Luise Gräfin von Götzen (1899–1951), only daughter of Gustav Adolf von Götzen. Wanda lost her life in late fall of 1951, when the family home in Tappan was gutted by fire. They had two children:

  • Diana (b. 24 March 1930; d. 17 February 2004)
    • Burgthann Castle was inherited by his daughter Diana. In spring 1956, she arrived at Burgthann Castle carrying two suitcases, as the "Sunday News" reported in it's edition from 22 April 1956. She sold her ownership of the castle to the municipality of Burgthann (Bavaria) in 1988.[6]
  • Harold Michael (b. 7 February 1933 in New York; d. 24 June 1952 in North Korea), killed in action as a private first class of the U. S. Marine Corps (Battery H, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division) while engaged in counter-battery fire mission north of the Imjin River (Source). He was at basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) on Parris Island approximately 4 miles south of the City of Beaufort, South Carolina, when he received the news of the tragic death of his beloved mother.

External links


  1. He was even expelled from the "National Institute of Arts and Letters" in 1946 for alleged "anti-Jewish propaganda". Source: William Hunt Diederich (1884–1953), InCollect (Archive)
  2. Hunt Diederich, National Museum of American Art
  3. Hunt Diederich. Olympedia. Retrieved on July 29, 2020.
  4. Hunt Diederich (Archive)
  5. Wilhelm Hunt Diederich
  6. Wer war der Burgherr Wilhelm Hunt Diederich? (Archive)