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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in 19th Century Rome by Professor Melissa Dabakis

Between 1850 and 1876, Anglo-American women artists sought creative refuge in the Eternal City. The neoclassical/realist sculptors among them developed successful professional careers in Rome, as they competed for and won public commissions, created ideal statuary, modelled portrait busts, and sold ‘fancy pieces’ (that is, garden sculpture and the like). This community of talented women included Harriet Hosmer, Edmonia Lewis, Anne Whitney, Vinnie Ream (Hoxie), Emma Stebbins, Margaret Foley, Sarah Fisher Ames, and Louisa Lander. They were among the first women artists to attain professional stature in the American art world while achieving international fame in Rome, London, and other cosmopolitan European cities. In this paper, I hope to provide a sampling of the dreams and disappointments, adventures and struggles of these pioneering artists.

Melissa Dabakis is Professor Emerita of Art History at Kenyon College, Ohio, US. She has held fellowships from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the J. Paul Getty Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The author of two books, Visualizing Labor in American Sculpture: Monuments, Manliness, and the Work Ethic, 1880-1935 (Cambridge University Press, 1999) and A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in Nineteenth Century Rome (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014), she has also written many journal articles and essays on American and modern European painting and sculpture. Co-organizer with Prof. Paul Kaplan of two international conferences on Italian-American cultural relations, she is currently co-editing the anthology Republics and Empires: Italian and American Art in Transnational Perspective, 1840-1970 (Manchester University Press, 2021).

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A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in 19th Century Rome by Professor Melissa Dabakis

An online Zoom talk, free for PSSA Members.  £3.50 for non-members (join the PSSA).

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Harriet Goodhue Hosmer with her assistants and carvers in the courtyard of her studio in Rome,1867, albumen print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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