As such, I thought about marble as art.
There are a number of renowned Black sculptors in history, such as Richmond Barthe (1901-1989) and William Edmondson (1870-1951). However, I thought that my Manic Monday post should feature Edmonia Lewis (1843-1911). Edmonia was born in upstate New York in 1843 to a Chippewa Indian mother and African American father. Edmonia surpassed exorbitant odds to become the first African American, and Native American, female sculptor -- and was the first such artist to celebrate her racial identity.
Her fame and artistic achievement shocked and mortified those who claimed that Negroes lacked the capacity for intelligence and fine art, particularly because Edmonia insisted on standing next to her works in photographs and extensively explaining them. She combined a unique blend of talent, emotion and perspective, and often sculpted in marble those who were heroes to her; leaders in the abolitionist movement and such courageous women as Cleopatra and Hagar, maid to Abraham's wife, Sarah.
Edmonia went to school here in Ohio. In January 1862, Edmonia was accused of poisoning two white female students. While awaiting trial, she was seized and beaten so viciously that she was bedridden for weeks. Edmonia was defended in court by John Mercer Langston, an Oberlin graduate and the first African American admitted to the Ohio bar. She was acquitted and carried from the courtroom on the shoulders of supportive friends, mostly white, and resumed her studies.
In 1864, she sculpted a marble bust of Robert Gould Shaw, who had died while leading an all-Black regiment in the battle of Fort Wagner. Robert Shaw was played by Matthew Broderick in the movie, Glory (NOTE: Denzel Washington won an Academy Award in this movie). Anyhow, Edmonia earned enough income from that Robert Show sculpture to embark on her dream of studying and working in Italy.
While in Italy, Edmonia was welcomed and encouraged by America's most famous sculptor, Hiram Powers. One of the most popular American marble statues of the 19th century, Hiram Powers' The Greek Slave (1844), portrays a Greek girl captured by the Turks and put up for sale in a Middle Eastern slave market. The sculptor said of his work: "As there should be a moral in every work of art, I have given to the expression of the Greek slave what trust there could still be in a Divine Providence for a future state of existence, with utter despair for the present, mingled somewhat of scorn for all around her . . . It is not her person but her spirit that stands exposed."
Oddly enough, Hiram Powers (1805-1873) was hailed as a Genius in Marble during his career. Cincinnati, OH is hosting the first major exhibition devoted to the most celebrated 19th century American sculptor at Taft Museum of Art thru August 12th. From 1840 to 1870 "Hiram Powers" was a household name, much like Picasso is today.
Villagers, I hope that you enjoyed this week's Manic Monday post.