Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Hosmer, Harriet

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HOSMER, Harriet, sculptor, b. in Watertown, Mass., 6 Oct., 1830. She was a delicate child, and was encouraged by her father, a physician, to pursue a course of physical training by which she became expert in rowing, skating, and riding. She travelled alone in the western wilderness, and visited the Dakota Indians. She began to model in clay at an early age, and, after completing her school education in Lenox, Mass., followed the course of anatomical instruction in the St. Louis medical college, and practised modelling at home, after receiving a few lessons in Boston. Her first work was a reduced copy of Canova's Napoleon, which was soon followed by an ideal head called “Hesper,” exhibited in Boston in 1852. Going to Rome with her father and Charlotte Cushman in November of the same year, she entered the studio of John Gibson, the English sculptor. She copied from the antique, and executed ideal busts of “Daphne” and “Medusa,” which attracted much attention. “Œnone,” her first figure of full size, was completed in 1855. In the summer of the same year she modelled a statue of “Puck” in a style so spirited and original that nearly thirty copies were ordered, and her reputation was established in her own country. It was followed by a companion figure of similar conception, called “Will-o'-the-Wisp.” In 1857 the reclining statue of “Beatrice Cenci” was completed for the St. Louis public library, and in the following winter she executed a monument that found a place in the church of San Andrea del Frate in Rome. The colossal statue of “Zenobia,” on which she worked for two years assiduously, and to the detriment of her health, was completed in 1859; followed by a statue of Thomas H. Benton, that was cast in bronze, and erected in Lafayette park, St. Louis. Among her other works are a “Sleeping Fawn,” which was exhibited at the Dublin exhibition of 1865 and the Paris exhibition of 1867; a fountain representing a siren and cupids a statue of the queen of Naples as the “Heroine of Gaëta”; a fountain representing the myth of Hylas and the water-nymphs; a monument to Abraham Lincoln; and a gateway for an art-gallery in England. The “Sleeping Fawn,” which was twice repeated, was followed by a companion-piece called the “Waking Fawn.” Miss Hosmer resides in Rome. Besides her skill in sculpture, which is executive and technical rather than creative, she has exhibited talents for designing and constructing machinery, and devising new processes, especially in connection with her own art, such as a method of converting the ordinary limestone of Italy into marble, and a peculiar process of modelling, in which the rough shape of a statue is first made in plaster, on which a coating of wax is laid for working out the finer forms.