Having Their Own Say ~ December, 1864

In two different and important publications, women have their own say. In a significant way they foreshadow what the rest of the 19th century will see women do. A pioneering artists defends her work.  A magazine editor offers a shopping service by mail.

Harriet Hosmer

Harriet Hosmer

December– Boston, Massachusetts– “We women-artists have no objection to its being known that we employ assistants; we merely object to its being supposed that it is a system peculiar to ourselves. When Thorwaldsen was called upon to execute his twelve statues of the Apostles, he designed and furnished the small models, and gave them into the hands of his pupils and assistants, by whom, almost exclusively, they were copied in their present colossal dimensions. The great master rarely put his own hand to the clay; yet we never hear them spoken of except as ‘Thorwaldsen’s statues.’ When Vogelberg accepted the commission to model his colossal equestrian statue of Gustavus Adolphus, physical infirmity prevented the artist from even mounting the scaffolding; but he made the small model, and directed the several workmen employed upon the full-size statue in clay, and we never heard it intimated that Vogelberg was not the sculptor of that great work. Even Crawford, than whom none ever possessed a more rapid or facile hand, could never have accomplished half the immense amount of work which pressed upon him in his later years, had he not had more than one pair of hands to aid him in giving outward form to the images in his fertile brain. Nay, not to refer solely to artists who are no longer among us, I could name many studios, both in Rome and England, belonging to our brothers in Art, in which the assistant-modeller forms as necessary a part of studio– ‘property’ as the living model or the marble-workers,– and many more, on a smaller scale, in which he lends a helping hand whenever required. If there are a few instances in which the sculptor himself conducts his clay model through every stage, it is usually because pecuniary considerations prevent his employing a professional modeller. . . . I am quite persuaded, however, that, had Thorwaldsen and Vogelberg been women, and employed one-half the amount of assistance they did in the cases mentioned, we should long since have heard the great merit of their works attributed to the skill of their workmen. . . . those who look upon sculpture as an intellectual art, requiring the exercise of taste, imagination, and delicate feeling, will never identify the artist who conceives, composes, and completes the design with the workman who simply relieves him from great physical labor, however delicate some portion of that labor may be. It should be a recognized fact, that the sculptor is as fairly entitled to avail himself of mechanical aid in the execution of his work as the architect to call into requisition the services of the stone-mason in the erection of his edifice, or the poet to employ the printer to give his thoughts to the world. Probably the sturdy mason never thinks much about proportion, nor the type-setter much about harmony; but the master-minds which inspire the strong arm and cunning finger with motion think about and study both. It is high time that some distinction should be made between the labor of the hand and the labor of the brain. It is high time, in short, that the public should understand in what the sculptor’s work properly consists, and thus render less pernicious the representations of those who, either from thoughtlessness or malice, dwelling upon the fact that assistance has been employed in certain cases, without defining the limits of that assistance, imply the guilt of imposture in the artists, and deprive them, and more particularly women-artists, of the credit to which, by talent or conscientious labor, they are justly entitled.” ~ An essay by the American sculptor Harriet Goodhue Hosmer in this month’s issue of Atlantic Monthly.

Zenobia by Hosmer, c.1859

Zenobia by Hosmer, c.1859

[Harriet Hosmer, 1830 – 1980, was the first successful American woman to make career for herself as a sculptor. Her father, a physician in Watertown, Massachusetts and concerned that his wife and his three other children died of disease, decided to make and keep Harriet healthy by teaching her to ride, swim, ice skate and shoot as well as encouraging her interests in mechanics, drawing and clay modeling. She studied sculpture in Rome and spent much of her life in Italy and England. She successfully sued detractors who claimed in print that her work was not hers but done by her mentor, John Gibson. This article was in response to claims that her beautiful work depended solely upon the skill of her helpers. On her life and work, see, Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography by Kate Culkin (2010).]

Zenobia by Hosmer, 1857

Zenobia by Hosmer, 1857

December– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– “Notice to Lady Subscribers. Having had frequent applications for the purchase of jewelry, millinery, etc., by ladies living at a distance, the Editress [sic] of the Fashion Department will hereafter execute commissions for any who may desire it, with the charge of a small percentage for the time and research required. Spring and autumn bonnets, materials for dresses, jewelry, envelops, hair-work, worsteds, children’s wardrobes, mantillas, and mantelets, will be chosen with a view to economy, as well as taste; and boxes or packages forwarded by express to any part of the country. For the last, distinct directions must be given. Orders, accompanied by checks for the proposed expenditure, to be addressed to the care of L.A. Godey, Esq. No order will be attended to unless the money is first received. Neither the Editor nor Publisher will be accountable for losses that may occur in remitting. The Publisher of the Lady’s Book has no interest in this department, and knows nothing of the transactions; and whether the person sending the order is or is not a subscriber to the Lady’s Book, the Fashion editor does not know. Instructions to be as minute as is possible, accompanied by a note of the height, complexion, and general style of the person, on which much depends in choice. Dress goods from Evans & Co.’s; mourning goods from Besson & Son; dry goods of any kind from Messrs. A. T. Stewart & Co., New York; cloaks, mantillas, or talmas, from Brodie’s, 51 Canal Street, New York; bonnets from the most celebrated establishments; jewelry from Wriggens & Warden, or Caldwell’s, Philadelphia. When goods are ordered, the fashions that prevail here govern the purchase; therefore, no articles will be taken back. When the goods are sent, the transaction must be considered final.” ~ Godey’s Lady’s Book.

Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book

Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book

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