Artists Past & Present

Featured Artist

Edmonia Lewis, American Portrait sculptor, 1844-1907

Feature Image


Although the purpose of this library is not to promote classicism, it is obviously an important part of the development of portrait sculpture and therefore I feel it is right to include a mention of this extraordinary American sculptor, who began life as the daughter of a Haitian Father and whose Mother was a native American, (Chippewa) and until 12 years old travelled with her Mother's tribe. At a time when women, especially of African and Native American background were not openly welcomed in this mostly male dominated area, she easily proved herself equal to her male counterparts. We only have to look at her 'Death of Cleopatra' to see evidence of this.


She apparently sculpted a bust of Ulysses S. Grant and portrayed a number of abolitionists.


Through the sale of portraits of John Brown and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, she financed a trip to Italy in 1865.


In Rome, where she established a studio, Lewis experienced greater artistic freedom as a woman and of mixed race background. Although she associated with several well-known American sculptors, including Hiram Powers and William Wetmore Story, Lewis forged closer ties with other women artists who lived there at the time, such as Harriet Hosmer and Anne Whitney.


Her final resting place was unknown until recent studies showed that she died in London England in 1907.


Boston, Massachusetts
Oberlin, Ohio
Rome, Italy


Stuart Williamson
Co-Founder of the PSSA