Marjorie Jay Daingerfield (1900-1977) learned about art from her father, Elliot Daingerfield, a well known painter and illustrator. He cast one of the clay figures she modeled in bronze when she was only twelve years old and continued to support her sculpting career until his death in 1932. As a student of Solon Borglum’s School of American Sculpture and the Grand Central School of Art, and traveler throughout Europe among prominent artistic circles, Daingerfield’s life was filled with art.
By 1930, the art world had recognized Daingerfield’s extraordinary talent for modeling portrait busts, heads, and small figures. She received many commissions from society leaders, businessmen, educators, and actors, although her more well-known pieces were representations of stage and opera performers. A bronze figure of the innovative dancer and choreographer Martha Graham won the Ann Hyatt Huntington Award of the Pen and Brush Club in 1956. Daingerfield was also the designer of the bronze statuette for the National Girl Scout emblem.
Daingerfield was noted for her passion for art and lively personality. During a trip to the Southwest in 1953, she convinced Hosteen Wanika, a Navajo Indian from Blue Canyon, Arizona, to sit for his portrait despite its violations of Navajo cultural beliefs. Lacking the proper tools, Daingerfield modeled the sculpture using clay dug from a nearby riverbed and chiseled it with a nail file and hairpins. Another anecdote involves Daingerfield inviting a streetwalker who approached her for money up to her studio to earn money as a model.
Daingerfield divided her time between New York and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, where her father had built a home and studio in the scenic Appalachian Mountains. Also an excellent teacher and gifted lecturer, Daingerfield taught at the School of American Sculpture and the Grand Central School of Art and lectured at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, at Duke University, and the North Carolina Art Association. She also contributed to journals and wrote the book Fun and Fundamentals of Sculpture (Scribner, 1963).
pictured: bust of a young girl, marble, lifesize, 1933.