Harriet Hosmer

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Harriet Hosmer
Harriet hosmer.jpg
Born (1830-10-09)October 9, 1830
Watertown, Massachusetts
Died February 21, 1908(1908-02-21) (aged 77)
Nationality American
Known for Sculpture

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (October 9, 1830 - February 21, 1908) was an American sculptor.


Harriet Hosmer was born at Watertown, Massachusetts, and completed a course of study at Sedgewick School[1] in Lenox, Massachusetts. She was a delicate child, and was encouraged by her father, Hiram Hosmer, a physician, to pursue a course of physical training by which she became expert in rowing, skating, and riding. She traveled alone in the wilderness of the western United States, and visited the Dakota Indians.[2][3]

She showed an early aptitude for modeling, and studied anatomy with her father. Through the influence of family friend Wayman Crow she would attend the anatomical instruction of Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell at the Missouri Medical College (then the medical department of the state university.)[4] 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.[2]

While living in Rome, she was associated with Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thorvaldsen, Thackeray, George Eliot and George Sand; and she was frequently the guest of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning at Casa Guidi, in Florence. Later she also resided in Chicago and Terre Haute, Indiana.

Harriet Hosmer, Engraving by Augustus Robin (1873)

Novelist Henry James unflatteringly referred to the group of women artists in Rome of which she was a part as "The White Marmorean Flock," borrowing a term from Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Marble Faun. These artists included lesbians Anne Whitney, Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis and non-lesbians Louisa Lander, Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, and Vinnie Ream.[5]

She was devoted for 25 years to Lady Ashburton, widow of Bingham Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton (died 1864). Lady Ashburton was born Louisa Caroline Stewart-Mackenzie, youngest daughter of James Alexander Stewart-Mackenzie, and had one daughter, the Hon. Mary Florence ("Maisie"), born 1860 in London.[6]

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.[2]

Hosmer died at Watertown, Massachusetts, on February 21, 1908.

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.[7]

Selected works[edit]

H. G. Hosmer: Beatrice Cenci

Hosmer made both large and small scale works and also produced work to specific order. Her smaller works were frequently issued in multiples to accommodate demand.[8] Among her most popular were 'Beatrice Cenci', which exists in several versions.


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



  1. ^ "History". Lenox, MA. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). "Hosmer, Harriet". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  3. ^ MacLean, Maggie. "Harriet Hosmer: One of the First Women Artists in the United States". CIvil War Women. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue (1912). Harriet Hosmer letters and memories. New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. p. 8. 
  5. ^ Williams, Carla (2002). "Whitney, Anne". glbtq.com. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  6. ^ Dolly Sherwood, Harriet Hosmer, University of Missouri Press, pp.102-3; 270-3.
  7. ^ Sherwood, Dolly, ‘’Harriet Hosmer, American Sculptor: 1830-1908’’ University of Missouri Press, Columbia MO, 1991 p. 31
  8. ^ Art Gallery of New South Wales, record of "Beatrice Cenci"
  9. ^ Art Gallery of New South Wales record of "Puck on a toadstool"
  10. ^ Williams, Janette (March 6, 2008). "Gift helps Huntington acquire American art". Pasadena Star-News. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Charles Colbert. Harriet Hosmer and Spiritualism. American Art, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 28–49
  • Patricia Cronin, preface by Maura Reilly and an essay by William H. Gerdts. (2009). Harriet Hosmer: Lost and Found, A Catalogue Raisonné. Milan: Edizioni Charta. ISBN 9788881587322.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Maclean, Maggie. "Harriet Hosmer: One of the First Women Artists in the United States". Civil War Women. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  2. ^ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Harriet Goodhue Hosmer". Encyclopedia Britanica. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Harriet Hosmer and the Triumph over Captivity". Radford University. Retrieved 7 March 2015.