Monumental Dreams:
The Life and Sculpture of Ann Norton

Caroline Seebohm

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"Seebohm brings her exceptional gift for storytelling to the life of this important but underknown American artist."--Graham Boettcher, William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art, Birmingham Museum of Art

"A fascinating story. It is also the history of the intense struggle between figurative and abstract sculpture in mid-twentieth-century art, a struggle that still continues to this day. "--Edwina Sandys, artist and winner of the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists Award for Excellence

"Brings together all the unique chapters of Ann Norton’s life. Seebohm is not afraid to share with the reader Norton’s disappointments, successes, and her final legacy. "--Cynthia Palmieri, executive director, Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, Inc.


For over twenty-five years, people have traveled from all over the world to visit the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach, Florida. Here they can explore mysterious, magical, large-scale works made of brick and granite positioned throughout the lush, native landscape. These gardens provide a rare opportunity to engage a sculptor’s complete vision, to experience the work in its true and intended setting.

Ann Norton (1905-1982) was born in Selma, Alabama, to a distinguished land-owning family. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she dreamed of being an artist and moved to New York in the early 1930s to study. Deeply interested in exploring the intersection of abstract art and realism, she studied with John Hovannes and Jose de Creeft and was briefly studio assistant to Alexander Archipenko. Her own pieces were well received, and by age 35, her work had already been shown at MOMA, the Whitney, and in other exhibitions.

Even so, she struggled to earn enough money to survive as a sculptor and moved to Florida in 1943 to take up a position as teacher at the Norton Gallery and School of Art, founded by retired Acme Steel president, Ralph Hubbard Norton. Over time, the two built a relationship based on common aesthetic values, one that eventually grew into companionship, partnership, and love. After his death, Ann Norton erected her finest and lasting work on the property he left behind, his generous legacy to her. Today, her monolithic sculptures--in the spirit of Stonehenge, Henry Moore, and Buddhist temple art--are known worldwide. Norton once indicated that the colossal monuments now standing in the Sculpture Gardens had existed clearly in her mind since she was a young girl, but without a space, home, or funds to realize her vision, they would never have materialized.

In this first-ever biography of an important twentieth-century artist, Caroline Seebohm tells the inspiring story of how Norton--a child of the South who eschewed her roots for the cosmopolitan world of New York City and beyond--paved her own way to become an artist and sculptor whose work encapsulates and transcends the modernist movement.


Caroline Seebohm is the author of several books including Under Live Oaks: The Last Great Houses of the Old South and Boca Rococo: How Addison Mizner Invented Florida’s Gold Coast. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, House & Garden (U.K.) and many other publications.
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“Covers Norton’s fascinating life, from a very Southern upbringing in Selma, Ala.… to her struggling artist year in Depression-era New York.” The Palm Beach Post

“Monumental Dreams is a fascinating story of the life and work of Ann Norton. It is also a history of the intense struggle between figurative and abstract sculpture in mid 20th century art, as well as the struggle for women’s recognition.” South Florida Opulence

Anyone who doubts that Ann Norton was a serious artist should read Caroline Seebohm’s new biography of the artist.-- Palm Beach Daily News

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