Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908

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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. 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.

Harriet Hosmer was born on October 9, 1830 at Watertown, Massachusetts, and completed a course of study at Sedgewick School in Lenox, Massachusetts. Her mother and three siblings died during her childhood. 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.

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). She then studied in Boston and practiced modeling at home until November 1852, when, with her father and her lover 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.

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

The artists included Anne Whitney, Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis, Louisa Lander, Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, and Vinnie Ream. Hawthorne was clearly describing these in his novel The Marble Faun, and Henry James called them a "sisterhood of American ‘lady sculptors'." 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.

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 exhibited her sculpture of Queen Isabella, commissioned by the Queen Isabella Association, in the California State Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. The statue was exhibited again in 1894 at the California Midwinter International Exposition.

For 25 years she was romantically involved with Louisa, Lady Ashburton, widow of Bingham Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton (died 1864). Lady Ashburton provided Harriet a studio close to the Ashburton home in Knightsbridge, London.

Hosmer died at Watertown, Massachusetts, on February 21, 1908, and is buried in the family plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge. Aside from the work she produced, Harriet Hosmer made her mark on art history and feminist and gender studies. 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."

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Vol.CCCXXVIII (ff.315). June-Dec. 1867.includes:f. 1 James Godkin, Irish writer: Letter to W. E. Gladstone: 1867.f. 3 Thomas Chisholm Anstey, MP: Letter to W. E. Gladstone: 1867.f. 5 Humphrey Lloyd, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin (1867), s... British Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet. Letters, [ca. 1845-1908]. Winterthur Library
referencedIn Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874. Correspondence, 1829-1874 Houghton Library
referencedIn Carole Oles, Papers, 1983-2007 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library
referencedIn Curran, Joseph L. Index to the Margaret Wendell LaBarre thesis on Harriet Hosmer : (Harriet Hosmer: her era and art) / compiled by Joseph L. Curran, Jr. Watertown Free Public Library
referencedIn Vol. LVI (ff. 433). Dec. 1857-Nov. 1860.Royal Institution; London: Lectures on art delivered at, by Sir A. H. Layard: 1859.includes:f. 1 Bhau Dájí, formerly Secretary of the Bombay Association: Letter to Sir A. H. Layard: 1857. ff. 1-173 passim, 35... British Library
referencedIn Charles E.L. Wingate papers, 1821-1919 (bulk 1892-1898) Houghton Library
referencedIn Marshall, Alice Kahler,. Women artists and sculptors graphics collection, 1836-1988. Penn State Harrisburg Library
referencedIn Harvard University. Autograph File, G. 1641-2009. Houghton Library
referencedIn Hawthorne Family Papers, ca. 1800-1926 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Papers, 1852-1972 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer letters, [ca. 1870-1900]. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Curran, Joseph L. Joseph L. Curran papers concerning Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1845-1975. Archives of American Art
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Letters, 1889-1897 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Letters, 1855-1865 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Brooklyn Museum. Dept. of Digital Collections and Services. Records, Exhibition views: installations. Patricia Cronin: 'Harriet Hosmer, Lost and Found'. 2009-2010. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
referencedIn William B. Hamilton Collection of British Manuscripts. Englishwoman's travel journal of Italy, 1861 February 1-May 3. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Ward, William E., b. 1821. Notes of European travel, 1867 / taken by William E. Ward. Winterthur Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Artist file. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
creatorOf Gibson, John, 1790-1866. Autograph letter signed : London, to Miss Hosmer in Watertown, Massachusetts, 1860 Aug. 20. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Gardner, Isabella Stewart, 1840-1924. Isabella Stewart Gardner papers, 1760-1956. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882. Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1761-1904 (bulk 1820-1888) Houghton Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet. [Letter] 185-, Rome [to] Miss Crawford. Washington University in St. Louis, Bernard Becker Medical Library
creatorOf Read family. Read family papers, 1848-1935. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893,. Autograph letters signed from Fanny Kemble to various recipients [manuscript], 1831-1890. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Trowbridge, Hattie E., b. 1841. Diaries, 1859. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Taylor, Anna Rudd. Diary, 1866-1867. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn James Thomas Fields autograph album, 1750-1941. Houghton Library
referencedIn Hawthorne family. Hawthorne family papers, 1825-1929. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Papers, 1834-1959 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lutz, Alma, 1890-1973. Collection of documents by and about abolitionists and women's rights activists, 1775-1943 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn James Freeman Clarke additional papers, 1806-1936. Houghton Library
referencedIn Women's Medical Society of New York State. Women's Medical Society of New York State records, 1907-1972. Cornell University Library
referencedIn May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871. Samuel Joseph May diary, 1859. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet. Harriet Hosmer letter and photograph, ca. 1860s and n.d. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Mary Freeman Crabbe diaries, 1890-1895 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Barry Faulkner papers, circa 1858-1973 Archives of American Art
creatorOf Watertown Free Public Library. [Harriet Hosmer miscellanea / compiled by the staff of the Watertown Free Public Library]. Minuteman Library Network
referencedIn Hosmer, Harriet, 1830-1908 : [miscellaneous ephemeral material]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908,. Autograph letter initialed from Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Rome, to F[rances Anne] Kemble [manuscript], ca. 1857 December 10. Folger Shakespeare Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer letter to Mrs. Appleton [manuscript], no date. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Clarke, James Freeman, 1810-1888. Additional correspondence, 1787-1886 Houghton Library
referencedIn Brainard, Charles Henry, 1817-1885. Papers, 1795-1884 and undated Houghton Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Papers, 1834-1959 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Ralph Waldo Emerson letters from various correspondents, ca. 1814-1882. Houghton Library
referencedIn Records of Radcliffe College President Wilbur Kitchener Jordan, 1943-1960. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Renner, Ginger King. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1830-1908 / by Ginger King Renner. Watertown Free Public Library
referencedIn Vol. LVII (ff. 431). Dec. 1860-1861.Sir Austen Henry Layard, GCB; diplomatist and archaeologist: Correspondence with Lord J. Russell: 1853-1871.John Russell, 1st Earl Russell; Prime Minister: Correspondence with Sir A. H. Layard: 1853-1871.includes:... British Library
referencedIn Lawrence, Susan Freeman, 1840-. Family history and reminiscences, 1897. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Vol. LXIV (ff. 434). Apr -Dec. 1867.General Hon Charles Grey, private Secretary to Prince Albert and to Queen Victoria: Correspondence with Sir A. H. Layard: 1864-1869.London, England: Correspondence rel. to erection of the Albert Memorial: 1866-1869... British Library
referencedIn Crabbe, Mary Freeman. Mary Freeman Crabbe diaries, 1890-1895. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Additional papers, 1848-1915 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lutz, Alma,. Collection of documents by and about abolitionists and women's rights activists: Part 1 (Ad-Lip), 1775-1943 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Palmer, Bertha Honoré, 1849-1918. Bertha Honoré Palmer correspondence collection, 1883-1899. Aurora University, Phillips Library
creatorOf Papers of Louise Greer [manuscript], 1851-1964. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Faulkner, Barry, 1881-1966. Barry Faulkner papers, circa 1858-1973. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Weeks, James Hubbard, 1810-1885. Journal, 1862-1864. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Autograph File, H, 1584-1988. Houghton Library
referencedIn James Thomas Fields collection of autographs and portraits of distinguished women, 1814-1907. Houghton Library
referencedIn Story, William Wetmore, 1819-1895. Papers of William Wetmore Story [manuscript] 1835-1895. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Additional papers, 1848-1915 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Women's Medical Society of New York State records, 1907-1972. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Autograph letter signed H.G. Hosmer to: Mrs. Ripley September 27, [s.d.]. Wellesley College
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet. Papers, 1852-1972 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers, 1834-1959 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf SUPPLEMENTARY LAYARD PAPERS Vol. II (ff. 174). , 1833-1896 British Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet, 1830-1908. Letter, Jan. 28, Rome, to Robert / H.G. Hosmer. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Autograph letter signed H.G. Hosmer to: Mrs. Ripley November 8, [1895]. Wellesley College
creatorOf Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Autograph letter signed H.G. Hosmer to: Mrs. Van Doren September 27, [1895]. Wellesley College
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associatedWith Marshall, Alice Kahler, person
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associatedWith Peruzzi, Edith W. Story. person
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correspondedWith Rothschild, Adolphe person
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associatedWith Sanborn, Kate, 1839-1917 person
associatedWith Sanborn, Kate, 1839-1917. person
correspondedWith Sarah W. Hosmer person
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correspondedWith Yeatman, James person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Mexico 00 MX
Florence IT
Republic of Bulgaria 00 BG
Huddersfield ENG GB
Oriental Republic of Uruguay 00 UY
Republic of Ecuador 00 EC
Sunderland ENG GB
Roumania, Europe
Kingdom of Morocco 00 MA
Republic of Liberia 00 LR
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Watertown MA US
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Subject
Caricatures and cartoons
Drama
Friendship
Letters
Poetry
Sculptors
Sculptors
Sculpture
Short stories
Spiritualism
Voyages and travels
Women artists
Women artists
Women sculptors
Women sculptors
Women sculptors
American
Sculpture, American
Americans in Italy
Art criticism
Artists
Artists
Artists
Art patronage
Arts
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Birth 1830-10-09

Death 1908-02-21

Female

Americans

English

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