The Sculpture of Donal Hord: Online Exhibit

The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1985, Volume 31, Number 3
Thomas Scharf, Managing Editor

Follow the above links to see all of Donal Hord’s sculptures online or to take a tour of Hord’s public sculpture in and around San Diego.


Donal Hord was born in 1902 as Donald Albert Horr in Prentice, Wisconsin. He moved to San Diego in 1916 where he was raised and resided until his death in 1966. Donal Hord was a San Diego artist who could make the hardest substances into flowing, life-like and spiritual forms. He studied sculpture with Anna Valentien, a student of Rodin’s, and spent two years studying bronze casting at the Santa Barbara School of the Arts with Archibald Dawson and Amory Simons.

Hord spent a year in Mexico, where he studied traditional Olmec and Zapotec art and carving on a Gould scholarship. He was fascinated with Teotihuacan civilization, which was one of monumental sculpture depicting symbolized natural phenomena such as fire, thunder, rain and celestial objects. As with Zapotec art and symbolism, Hord was also intrigued with the art of China and one can see influences from the carved reliefs of the Wei Dynasty and the polychrome earthenware of the T’ang Dynasty.

Right: El Cargador, Rosewood

Hord expressed through his work an intense understanding of the human form and the materials with which he worked. During the depression of the 1930’s, he created numerous figures as part of the Work Project Administration, which can be seen throughout San Diego. The WPA figures tend to be stoic representations of the era in which they were created. It is not until Donal Hord’s later work that we see a freer use of imagery and sensuality. His marriage of materials with form is a sensual and textural union.

Hord met his lifelong assistant and friend Homer Dana in 1920. Dana’s physical strength and knowledge of sculpting helped to bring life to Hord’s visions in even the most difficult materials.

Much of the information in this on-line exhibit is from Bruce Kamerling’s article “Like the Ancients: The Art of Donal Hord,” published in the Summer 1985 Journal of San Diego History.

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