Helen Farnsworth Mears

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Helen Farnsworth Mears
Helen Farnsworth Mears.jpg
Helen Farnsworth Mears
Born (1872-12-21)December 21, 1872
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Died February 17, 1916(1916-02-17) (aged 43)
Greenwich Village
Education State Normal School in Oshkosh
Known for American sculptor
Notable work marble statue of Frances E. Willard
Movement "White Rabbits"
Patron(s) Augustus Saint Gaudens

Helen Farnsworth Mears (/mɪərs/; December 21, 1872 – February 17, 1916) was an American sculptor.[1]


Mears was born December 21, 1872, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, daughter of John Hall Mears and [2] Elizabeth Farnsworth Mears (pen names "Nellie Wildwood" and "Ianthe", called the first Wisconsin poetess [3]) and youngest sister to Louise and Mary Mears. Mears studied at the State Normal School in Oshkosh,[4] and art in New York City. In New York, she studied under Augustus Saint Gaudens for two years and worked as his assistant[5] before heading to Paris in 1895 to continue working with Denys Puech (sometimes Puesch), Alexandre Charpentier, and Frederick MacMonnies.[6][7]

Her first success, before any formal art training, was "Genius of Wisconsin", a work commissioned by the State of Wisconsin when she was just 21. The work was exhibited in the Wisconsin Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.[8] The 9-foot (2.7 m) marble sculpture was executed by the Piccirilli Brothers.[9] It is now housed in the Wisconsin State Capitol.[10] Both she and sculptor Jean Pond Miner were named "artists in residence" at the Wisconsin Building, and that is where she created The Genius of Wisconsin, while Miner produced Forward.[11]

Mears was one of a group of women sculptors christened the "White Rabbits" who worked under Lorado Taft producing sculpture for the World Columbian Exposition.[12]

In 1907, Mears, and her sister, writer Mary Mears, were the first colonists at MacDowell Colony.[13]

Her most important works include a marble statue of Frances E. Willard (1905, Capitol, Washington) that is included in the National Statuary Hall Collection; portrait reliefs of Edward MacDowell (Metropolitan Museum, New York); and Augustus St. Gaudens; portrait busts of George Rogers Clark and William T.G. Morton, M. D. (Smithsonian Institution, Washington). In 1904, her "Fountain of Life" (St. Louis Exposition) won a bronze medal. She made New York her residence and exhibited there and in Chicago.[citation needed]

In 1910, George B. Post, the architect of the Wisconsin State Capitol then being designed, attempted to secure the services of the well-known sculptor Daniel Chester French to create a statue of Wisconsin to be placed on top of the dome. French, having as much work as he desired, turned the commission down, and so Post recommended Mears for the job. Without waiting for a formal contract, she immediately began working on a model, even visiting French in the course of her work. Shortly thereafter, however, Post received a letter from French indicating that he was interested in the task after all, and he was quickly awarded it. Mears was paid US$1,500 for the work that she had already done, but the loss of the commission was a shock from which she never recovered.[14][15]

Following the debacle surrounding the Wisconsin capitol statue, Mears's health declined as did her financial well-being. She died at the age of 43 on February 17, 1916 of heart disease.[7][16][17] At the time of her death, she was working in her studio at 46 Washington Square South, in Greenwich Village.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Women's Auxiliary, State Historical Society of (1971). "Helen Farnsworth Mears". Famous Wisconsin Women. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  2. ^ "Helen Farnsworth Mears". Wisconsin History Bulletin. 13 (13). March 1927. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  3. ^ "Wisconsin Electronic Reader: Elizabeth Farnsworth Mears and James Gates Percival". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  4. ^ Archival Artifacts: Albee Bust
  5. ^ Petteys, Chris, ‘’Dictionary of Women Artists’’, G K Hill & Co., 1985, p. 486.
  6. ^ Petteys, Chris, ‘’Dictionary of Women Artists’’, G K Hill & Co. publishers, 1985.
  7. ^ a b "Badger Sculptress Dead In New York". Madison Democrat. February 19, 1916. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  8. ^ Opitz, ed., Glenn B. (1984). Dictionary of American Sculptors: 18th century to the present. New York: Apollo. p. 268. ISBN 0938290037. 
  9. ^ "Wisconsin Historical Society". Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  10. ^ http://www.library.wisc.edu/etext/WIReader/Images/WER0470.html
  11. ^ Beajer and Style, ‘’Public Sculpture in Wisconsin: An Atlas of Outdoor Monuments, Memorials and Masterpieces in the Badger State’’, SOS! Wisconsin, Save Outdoor Sculpture and Fine Arts Conservation Services, Madison Wisconsin, 1999 pp 23 & 107
  12. ^ Mears, Helen Farnsworth 1872 - 1916
  13. ^ Bomberger, E. Douglas. MacDowell. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  14. ^ Rajer & Style
  15. ^ Helen Farnsworth Mears, WHi-10583
  16. ^ "Helen F. Mears Dies. A Noted Sculptor. Designer of Heroic Figure, 'The Genius of Wisconsin,' Stricken at Home. Won A Prize At 7 Years. Her Portrait Relief of Edward Alex MacDowell Is in the Metropolitan Art Museum". New York Times. February 18, 1916. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  17. ^ "Helen Farnsworth Mears". Hartford Courant. February 21, 1916. Retrieved 2013-11-23. Helen Farnsworth Mears Helen Farnsworth Mears, a famous sculptor, died Thursday in her home in New York. She was a pupil of St. Gaudens and afterwards of ... 


  • Rajer, Anton and Christine Style, Public Sculpture in Wisconsin: An Atlas of Outdoor Monuments, Memorials and Masterpieces in the Badger State, SOS! Save Outdoor Sculpture, Wisconsin, Madison Wisconsin, 1999
  • Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, American Women Sculptors, G.K. Hall & Co., Boston 1990
  • Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Levy, Hannah Heidi (2004). Famous Wisconsin: Artists and Architects. Oregon, WI: Badger Books. 

External links[edit]