Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Cornish Portrait Bust, 1931

In the fall of 1931, Tennant received a commission to make a memorial portrait bust from Mrs. Hilda Cornish of Little Rock, Arkansas. Mrs. Cornish was the widow of a prominent banker, Ed Cornish, who had been President of the American Bank of Commerce, the largest financial institution in Arkansas. Mr. Cornish had been a respected member of the community. He and his wife lived in one of the most palatial homes in Little Rock. Sadly, Cornish had suffered financial losses in the fall of 1928 and taken his life while staying in a New Orleans hotel, an action no doubt caused by despondency over his business situation. Nevertheless, Mrs. Cornish had inherited a considerable estate and it was her desire to place a bust of her late husband at his gravesite in the Oakland Cemetery at Little Rock. Accordingly, she traveled to Dallas and engaged Allie for the task. Tennant did her preliminary research on Mr. Cornish and completed her clay model at her Live Oak Street studio. After a few months, the bust was ready to be shipped to the foundry where it was cast in bronze. In the late spring of 1931, Tennant traveled to Little Rock where she supervised its placement in the cemetery. It was an interesting piece because it had a golden bronze patina and was set on a pink marble pedestal. In a later era, this gravesite became well-known in Arkansas, and not for the portrait bust. After her husband’s death Mrs. Cornish subsequently had a very public career in advocating birth control in the South, thus earning a title as the “Mother of Birth Control in Arkansas.” She died in 1965 and is today also buried in the plot which is marked by Tennant’s portrait bust.