Born in 1892, when females were not expected to have a career, Waldine Amanda Tauch received encouragement to draw from her father who was a photographer. He allowed her to copy his photographs. In an interview conducted in the early 1980s, Waldine said that the
day before she started school in Schulenberg, someone showed her an ivory bookmarker. She was so taken with the image on the piece that she asked her teacher for one of the large pieces of chalk. Using her father’s pocket knife, she carved the image with such detail that she earned immediate praise. She knew at that time that she intended to be a sculptress. She worked in clay and later she used soap, wood, chalk, and stone.
The family moved to Brady when Waldine was in her teens and some stories claim she caught the attention of ladies in the Tuesday Study Club when she carved butter into a centerpiece for a tea table. The women’s organization raised money for her art education and a friend of the renowned Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini asked him to accept Tauch as his student.
Waldine said that her mother “wanted me to get married and have children, but my father who was a photographer was so happy someone was going to help me be a sculptress.” Ten days before she graduated high school in 1910, Waldine moved to San Antonio to study with Coppini. When her scholarship funds ran out, he and his wife claimed her as their foster daughter.
Waldine followed Coppini’s naturalistic style in classical sculptor, but she refused to listen to him when he warned that she was too small for the physical rigors needed to follow her dream of creating larger-than-life-sized works.
In 1923 Waldine followed Coppini to New York to help care for his wife and assist in his creation of the Littlefield Fountain for the University of Texas at Austin. Over the next twelve years in New York, she received commissions primarily for portrait busts and for small genre figures produced by Gorham for the mass market.
She returned to San Antonio in 1935 to win the commission inspired by the Texas Centennial celebration (1936) to carve The First Shot Fired for Texas Independence, a life-sized bronze bas-relief set in granite honoring the 1836 Battle of Gonzales.
Waldine had moved from assistant to a partnership when she and Coppini shared the cost of opening a San Antonio studio that grew into an academy dedicated to traditional art styles and techniques. After Coppini’s death, Waldine renamed it the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in honor of her mentor.
The commissions kept coming, including the eight-foot bronze of General Douglas MacArthur when Tauch was seventy-four years old. Her biographer, Alice Hutson, explained that the skeleton of a figure begins with arranging boards to form the shape and pose. Then pipes are bent within the board frame to form the right curve before the figure is packed with clay. Even clothed figures are first created nude in order to get the muscular structure correct. In an interview, Tauch said that when she was creating the MacArthur figure, she used his army physical record to get his weight and height and that Mrs. MacArthur loaned his uniform. Tauch laughed when she disclosed that a man had written a poem after he came into her studio while she was working on MacArthur. The nude figure wore only his shoes and his cap. The startled gentleman wrote that “nobody in San Antonio knows the man the way Waldine does. She knows him from head to foot.”
Biographer Hutson says when Tauch created the heroic-sized bronze Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World (1965) she used three male models. Seems she liked the facial contour of one model for the head, but his body was too slender. So, she used the torso of another man. His legs did not look good, so she used a third model whose legs she admired.
In 1964 Tauch was elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society of New York City. Five years later the Texas Senate presented Tauch an award for sculpting outstanding Texans, stating that her general patriotism added to the culture of Texas.
Her work is found in front of the Armstrong-Browning Library at Baylor University and at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon. Figures are housed in workshops and at exhibitions, at the MacArthur Memorial Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and in the Witte Museum in San Antonio.
Waldine Tauch died in 1986 and is buried in San Antonio’s Sunset Memorial Park in a plot beside Pompeo Coppini and his wife.
Alice Hutson points out that Waldine Tauch created her grand bronze figures in an era before the Women’s Movement before women were allowed to do such things. In that early 1980s interview, Waldine Tauch said “I am happy I had my career. I did what I wanted to do. I enjoyed every minute of it.”