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Early Years in Southern California

With the coming of the World War II,  the artist’s father, sculptor G.H. Snowden, shuttered his New York City atelier and concluded his seventeen year tenure as Professor of sculpture at Yale, since the University was closing its doors for the war effort.


Simultaneously with the closing of the Yale School of Sculpture, M.L. Snowden’s father received a letter from famed film director, Cecil B. De Mille, inviting him to come to California. Thus on the brink of war, M.L. Snowden’s parents moved from New York City to the West coast of Southern California.        


Settling in Hollywood during the war years, G.H. Snowden created a range of statuary for numerous motion pictures, including The Robe.  Enjoying California’s exceptionally mild weather, the elder Snowden carried out the immense feat of sculpting the entire Circus Maximus arena set for the movie, Ben Hur. At the behest of the Director, G.H. Snowden went on to create sculpture for De Mille’s classic remake of the epic, The Ten Commandments.


M.L. Snowden was born in Hollywood, in 1952. The artist’s mother, Louise, was a talented actress who had appeared on Broadway. As a result of relocating to the West coast, Louise Illington Snowden soon came under contract with Paramount Pictures. Yet on the event of M.L.’s birth, Louise left movies to devote herself to motherhood. As a result, M.L. Snowden’s association with her mother was an especially close bond. With a keen and appreciative eye for the arts, Louise deeply encouraged and nurtured the creative spirit of her daughter. As M.L. Snowden recalls,” My mother was a brilliant Renaissance woman, inside and out. She did everything in her power to encourage my youthful artistic ambitions.”


The Snowden family settled in a leafy suburb close to the Pacific Ocean in a home situated over the San Andreas/ Inglewood fault line. Early on, M.L. Snowden experienced the effects of strong geological seismic activity. A series of earthquakes that rocked the region and her home as a young person later inspired Snowden to undertake formal studies of geological science alongside her father who was intensely interested in the subject.


Through the years, the Snowden family changed residences between Los Angeles, New York City and Europe, all the while calling Southern California home. In the mid 1950’s G.H. Snowden together with his family, moved back to New York City for several years in order to carry out a number of important sculpture commissions.

M.L. Snowden in 2014

M.L. Snowden's mother, Louise

Early Challenges

Snowden’s lifetime love of art – particularly the art of sculpture, was born from little known and deeply felt challenges. In the 1950’s, a series of almost fatal misdiagnosed illnesses left Snowden physically impaired. As Snowden reflects, “I became a figurative sculptor because it shaped the language of my soul. Art was a way to connect to my inner and outer worlds. ”


Sculptor George H. Snowden

Early Inspiration

As the daughter of sculptor George H. Snowden, the slowly recovering artist found inspiration in the statuary that was taking shape in her father’s New York City studio when he was working on the Main Altar and exterior sculptural programs of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., North America’s largest religious edifice. [1]



[1] The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Dedication Issue, 20 Nov. 1959. The Catholic Standard, Washington D.C. The Main Altar was completed in the 1960’s.

Exterior of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

First Steps with Sculpture

Snowden’s calling as a sculptor began when her father pressed a small ball of clay into her palm. As Snowden remarks, “The clay that passed from my father’s hand into mine was pearl of possibility – full of life.” First working on models in clay and then casting them in bronze or carving them in marble, the Elder Snowden patiently showed his daughter Rodin’s techniques. He also shared his important collection of Rodin’s tools that came from his mentor, Yale professor and Rodin protégé, Robert Eberhard. Indeed, the Swiss sculptor Eberhard who had been trained by Antonin Mercie΄ joined Rodin as his practicien on the recommendation of Rodin’s marble carver, Victor Peter. [1] As M.L. Snowden recalls, “From the beginning, Rodin’s tools were large, but my father assured me my hands would grow into them. Sculpture was like sunshine lighting my future.”[1]


[1] The Legacy of Rodin Film, VB Nova Associates 1999

[1] Contemporary American Sculpture. New York, The Kalkhoff Company, 1929; Archives of the National Sculpture Society, New York; Ludovic Baschet. Societe Des Artistes Francais: Catalogue Illustre Du Salon de 1907,  125 Exposition  Rodin Grand Jury – 1905, 1906, 1907. P. 5; Eberhard, p. 285. .Paris, Bibliotheque Des Annales 51 Rue Saint-Georges, 1907.


Robert Georges Eberhard

August Rodin

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