Nancy Cox-McCormack Cushman Papers
Nancy Cox-McCormack Cushman was an American sculptor, writer, artist, and socialite. Although she created some altar panels and abstracts, her work consisted mostly of portrait sculpture, primarily in bronze and terra cotta. Particularly productive between 1910 and 1953, her work included a broad range of well and lesser known people. These included Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, poet Ezra Pound, lawyer Clarence Darrow, social reformer Jane Addams, Italian architect Giacomo Boni, Spanish dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, and Indian politician Mohandas K. Ghandi. Through her work and social contacts, Cushman cultivated a wide variety of notable friends and associates including the family of author Stephen Vincent Benet; social reformer Louis de Koven Bowen; Italian poet and anti-fascist Lauro De Bosis; Ezra and Dorothy Pound; artist Elizabeth Sparhawk Jones; writer and journalist Clara Laughlin; Grace Hegger Lewis, wife of Sinclair Lewis; opera singer Gladys Swarthout; and the family of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Her work received little critical attention during her lifetime or since, but local newspapers covered her work and travels extensively.
Nancy Cox-McCormack Cushman was born Nancy Mal Cox in Nashville, Tennessee, August 15, 1885, the second of three children of cousins Herschell McCullough Cox and Nancy Morgan Cox. She was descended from one of the first families to settle in Virginia in the early 1600s. Her mother studied music and painting and although it is not clear what her father's occupation was, in a letter to Alice Gerstenberg, Cushman writes " Like many southerners of inheritance my family was artistic." Her mother died of tuberculosis when Nancy was three. All three children contracted polio, and Nancy's elder sister and younger brother both died of the disease shortly before the death of their mother. The results if the illness affected Nancy's health for the rest of her life. Her father married Lillian Warren with whom he had one son, Henry Herschel Cox. In 1899, when Nancy was fourteen, her father was killed in a carriage accident on his way to view a newly acquired property. After a brief time in a boarding school in Arkansas, she and her stepmother moved to Nashville where Nancy was enrolled at Ward Seminary. At Ward she worked in pastels and watercolors under the direction of artist Willie Betty Newman. Nancy, cut off from her father's family and unhappy with her stepfamily and her "irrational stepmother," ran away and married Mark McCormack in 1903. She admitted that it was an "escape" marriage and they were soon divorced.
Left a "small income" by her father, Nancy enrolled at Washington University St. Louis School of Fine Arts in 1910 and then the Chicago Art Institute studying sculpture under Charles Mulligan. She worked in Chicago until 1920 during which time she sculpted over twenty-five pieces and wrote Peeps, The Really Truly Sunshine Fairy, a children's book published in 1918. It was during this time in Chicago that her life intersected with many well known people such as Clarence Darrow, Grace Hegger Lewis, Alice Gerstenberg, Eunice Tietjens, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
In 1921 Cushman traveled to Europe. While in France she became friends with Ezra Pound and his wife, Dorothy Shakespeare, whom she had met earlier in the States. In 1922 she opened a studio in Rome, and shortly thereafter she received a commission from the Italian American Society of Philadelphia to sculpt a bust of Benito Mussolini. It was during this period that she also did a bust of the Spanish dictator Primo de Rivera. Pieces produced during this time were exhibited in Paris at the Galleries Jacques Seligman, the Salon of 1923, and at the 1923-24 Exposition Biennale Internationale des Beaux Arts in Rome. They were also subsequently exhibited at Seligman, New York Gallery; the National Gallery in Washington D.C.; the Chicago Art Institute; and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
Cushman returned to the United States in 1924 settling in New York and Pennsylvania where she wrote her memoirs and a book, Pleasant Days in Spain. In 1931 she traveled to London to sculpt a portrait bust of Mohandas K. Gandhi. During the next eight years she sculpted a number of portrait busts and a bas-relief memorial medallion of Jane Addams. She continued to work on her memoirs and traveled throughout the United States speaking of her experiences.
In 1939 she married Charles Thomas Cushman, an employee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. They settled in Ithaca, New York, traveling extensively until his death in 1962. Her last work was her husband's tombstone. Nancy Cox-McCormack Cushman died in Ithaca on February 17, 1967.