Partner Louisa Caroline Stewart-Mackenzie, Lady Ashburton

Queer Places:
Riverside St, Watertown, MA 02472, Stati Uniti
Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138, Stati Uniti

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (October 9, 1830 – February 21, 1908) was a neoclassical sculptor, considered the most distinguished female sculptor in America during the 19th century. She is known as the first female professional sculptor.[1] Among other technical innovations, she pioneered a process for turning limestone into marble. Hosmer once lived in an expatriate colony in Rome, befriending many prominent writers and artists. She called the widowed Englishwoman Louisa, Lady Ashburton “my sposa” and referred to herself as Ashburton’s “hubbie,” “wedded wife,” and daughter. Writing to Ashburton of a marriage between monarchs, Hosmer added, “They will be as happy in their married life as we are in ours”; in another letter she promised “when you are here I shall be a model wife (or husband whichever you like).” Harriet Hosmer adopted boyish dress and manners and flirted openly with women, but Victorian lifewriting attests that dozens of respectable Englishwomen traveling to Rome were eager to meet her. Her visitors in the late 1860s included a diplomat’s wife, a philanthropic Christian woman, and Anne Thackeray, who traveled to Rome with Lady de Rothschild.

Harriet Hosmer was born on October 9, 1830 at Watertown, Massachusetts, and completed a course of study at Sedgewick School[2] in Lenox, Massachusetts. Her mother and three siblings died during her childhood.[3] She was a delicate child, and was encouraged by her father, physician Hiram Hosmer, to pursue a course of physical training by which she became expert in rowing, skating, and riding. He also encouraged her artistic passion. She traveled alone in the wilderness of the western United States, and visited the Dakota Indians.[4][5]

She showed an early aptitude for modeling, and studied anatomy with her father. Through the influence of family friend Wayman Crow she attended the anatomical instruction of Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell at the Missouri Medical College (then the medical department of the state university).[6] She then studied in Boston and practiced modeling at home until November 1852, when, with her father and her friend Charlotte Cushman, she went to Rome, where from 1853 to 1860 she was the pupil of the Welsh sculptor John Gibson, and she was finally allowed to study live models.

In 1854, Matilda Hays left Cushman for Hosmer, which launched a series of jealous interactions among the three women. Hays eventually returned to live with Cushman, but the tensions between her and Cushman would never be repaired.

While living in Rome, Hosmer associated with a colony of artists and writers that included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bertel Thorvaldsen, William Makepeace Thackeray, and the two female Georges, George Eliot and George Sand. When in Florence, she was frequently the guest of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning at Casa Guidi.

The artists included Anne Whitney, Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis, Louisa Lander, Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, and Vinnie Ream.[8] Hawthorne was clearly describing these in his novel ''The Marble Faun'', and Henry James called them a "sisterhood of American ‘lady sculptors'."[9] As Hosmer is now considered the most famous female sculptor of her time in America, she is credited with having 'led the flock' of other female sculptors.[10]

Hosmer had once called Stebbins "wife". But it was with Cushman that Stebbins shared rooms when they moved to Via Gregoriana, 38, in 1858. Hosmer became "single", living separately at the same address for several years. But soon Cushman and the headstrong Hosmer were at odds. Hosmer moved accross the Piazza Barberini and next door to artist William Wetmore Story. Eventually their resentments faded, but they never regained their closeness. In 1873 Hosmer's studio was at Via Margutta, 5.

Hosmer was drawn to the Neoclassical style, which was easy to study given her presence in Rome. She enjoyed studying mythology, and she created various representations of mythological icons, such as the sculpture of ''The Sleeping Faun'', which includes intricate details of elements such as his hair, the grapes, and the cloth draped over him.

She also designed and constructed machinery, and devised new processes, especially in connection with sculpture, such as a method of converting the ordinary limestone of Italy into marble, and a process of modeling 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.

Hosmer later lived in Chicago and Terre Haute, Indiana.

She was devoted for 25 years to Louisa Baring, Lady Ashburton, widow of Bingham Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton (died 1864).[11]


Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge

Hosmer died at Watertown, Massachusetts, on February 21, 1908, and is buried in the family plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.[12] Aside from the work she produced, Harriet Hosmer made her mark on art history and feminist and gender studies.{{citation needed|date=June 2016}} As the National Museum of Women in the Arts put it, "Harriet Goodhue Hosmer defied 19th-century social convention by becoming a successful sculptor of large scale, Neoclassical works in marble."[13]

In the 19th century women did not usually have careers, especially careers as sculptors. Women were not allowed to have the same art education as men, they were not trained in the making "great" art such as large history paintings, mythological and biblical scenes, modeling of figure. Women usually produced artwork that could be done in their home, such as still lives, portraits, landscapes, and small scale carvings, although even Queen Victoria allowed her daughter, the Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, to study sculpture.

Hosmer was not allowed to attend art classes because working from a live model was forbidden for women, but she took classes in anatomy to learn the human form and paid for private sculpture lessons. The biggest career move she made was moving to Rome to study art. Hosmer owned her own studio and ran her own business. She became a well-known artist in Rome, and received several commissions.

Hosmer commented on her break from tradition by saying "I honor every woman who has strength enough to step outside the beaten path when she feels that her walk lies in another; strength enough to stand up and be laughed at, if necessary."

Mount Hosmer, near Lansing, Iowa, is named after Hosmer; she won a footrace to the summit of the hill during a steamboat layover during the 1850s.[14]

During World War II the Liberty ship Harriet Hosmer was built in Panama City, Florida, and named in her honor.[15]

A book of poetry, ''Waking Stone: Inventions on the Life Of Harriet Hosmer'', by Carole Simmons Oles, was published in 2006.

Her sculpture, ''Puck and Owl'', is featured on the Boston Women's Heritage Trail.[16]

The Hosmer School in Watertown, Massachusetts is a public elementary school named in her honor.


Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC


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