Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

I need to get back in the habit of googling Harriet Hosmer more often.  I have come across two  older but interesting links in recent days.

Hosmer and an illustration of her bust Daphne is featured on the “That’s So Gay” blog, which is dedicated to gay history in the Library Company of Philadelphia collections.  The Library Company also holds the papers of the author Anne Hampton Brewster, a friend of Hosmer’s.  I loved reading through the Brewster’s letters, which contained a description of a dramatic fight Hosmer witnessed between Charlotte Cushman and her girlfriend Matilda Hayes when all three women were living together in Rome.  It was an unique insight into the life of this household.  The last post on the blog promotes the upcoming exhibit “That’s So Gay: Outing Early America,” which will run from Feb. 10-Oct.17, 2014.

Philip Kennicott’s 2011 article in the Washington Post, Art Has Yet to Face Up to Homosexuality raises important issues about the role of gay artists in our artist heritage and how that is represented or, often, hidden, in art history and museums.  I was both happy and distressed to read this sentence though: “Artists who hid their “gay” work (Charles Demuth), or stood to the side of the mainstream art world (Marsden Hartley), or are simply forgotten (a circle of artists in Italy that included Emma Stebbins, Edmonia Lewis and Harriet Hosmer) may deserve new attention and status.”  I guess I hoped my book would mean Hosmer was not-so-forgotten? 

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I will be speaking about Harriet Hosmer at Cedar Crest College on Friday March 23 at 1 PM.  I’m very excited, especially as it was arranged by one of my Harriet Jacobs Family Papers colleagues, who in addition to being an excellent researcher also blogs about beer.  (A great combo of credentials, I think.) Introducing students at an all women college to Harriet Hosmer seems like an appropriate way to celebrate women’s history month.

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I’ll be speaking at the Wellfleet Public Library, on Cape Cod, about Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography July 27 at 8 PM.  I’m very excited, as I love Wellfleet, which is one of the most beautiful spots on the Cape.  And it is a great public library. Another must on a trip to Wellfleet is Mac’s Seafood, a terrific fried food shack on the town pier. It even as peppermint ice cream, which is my favorite flavor and is harder and harder to find.

Here are few pictures of my family’s trip to Mac’s Seafood from last summer.

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On April 7, there will be an event to celebrate the publication of Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation. Born in Austria in 1904, Chaim Gross emigrated to the United States in 1921.  He became a well known sculptor, working primarily in wood, and was a founding teacher of sculpture at the New School.  The event will take place in his studio, which is filled with his work. I don’t believe the models from the picture linked to will be there; if so, they are likely to be clothed.

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I will be discussing Harriet Hosmer at the LoDo branch of the Tattered Cover this evening-Tuesday March 22–at 7:30.  While I will be giving an overview of Hosmer’s entire career, I will also be talk about a trip Hosmer made to Denver in June 1889 to distribute art prizes and discuss her work.  She wrote a great letter detailing her trip.  The day after the prize ceremony, she went to Leadville.  “There I was taken a partner in a gold mine and then and there presented with shares of stock in it!” We had a charming party, and returned on Wednesday. On Thursday we went to the heart of the Rockies, up the Loop, a wonderful journey, but here comes a pause.  Owning probably to a chill I got on the way, I took to my bed on returning  . . . Everyone is kindness itself, and they sent the loveliest flowers, but I have missed all the hospitalities which have been arranged for me, the reception of Mrs. Evans (the governor’s wife) among the rest.”

Below is a newspaper clipping about the art prize ceremony.

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As some of you know, I will speaking about Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography at the LoDo Tattered Cover on March 22 at 7:30. When I contacted my high school’s alumni office about the event, the alumni coordinator kindly suggested that she feature the event in the alumni e-newsletter and highlight me in the “Alumni Corner.”  (Scroll down). As a biographer, it was fun to think back on how my high school experiences shaped my later life.

The high school in question is Kent Denver, known as the Kent Denver Country Day School when I went there.  The school’s most famous alumnae is Madeleine Albright, who graduated from Kent in 1955, when it was still a school for girls.  (It later merged with the Denver Country Day School for boys).  When I was finishing my dissertation, I would often wake up (kind of in a panic) in the middle of the night, wondering if and when I would be done and what would become of me afterward.  During of those bouts of insomnia, I watched a documentary about Albright in which she discussed finishing up her Ph.D. while taking care of her young children.  It put my struggle in perspective and was oddly  comforting.  (And I loved her appearance on the Gilmore Girls) So let me conclude by saying Go Sundevils!

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The height of Harriet Hosmer’s career was in the 1850s and ’60s, before she turned 40.  Her decline in popularity in later years came about for a variety of reasons, including changing American tastes after the Civil War, changes in Rome after Italian unification, and the attention Hosmer devoted to her relationship with Louisa, Lady Ashburton.  But another reason was that Hosmer turned much of her creative energy to her attempts to create a perpetual motion machine.  She was not alone in the endeavor–many other people were attempting to the same thing.  But Hosmer spent decades on this project, eventually proclaiming, ” I would rather have my fame rest upon the discovery of perpetual motion than upon my achievement in art.” Some of her friends were less than enthusiastic; the Irish reformer and author Frances Power Cobbe bemoaned the fact that “She was lured away from sculpture by some invention of her own of a mechanical kind over which many years of her life have been lost.”

One of my happiest moments as a researcher came when I found the drawings of the invention Hosmer had submitted to the British Patent Office at the New York Public Library’s Science and Industry branch. I had gone in the hopes of learning how I would go about contacting the British Patent Office to begin a search.  But I lucked into asking a very knowledgeable, very helpful librarian, who knew the library held the patent office’s Official Journal, which includes the descriptions and illustrations submitted with patents.  It took him a while to find them, as they had been miscataloged, but he finally dug out the volumes I needed, which clearly no one had looked at in decades.  They were covered with dust.  While I had read her descriptions of the machine, it was amazing to see illustrations of them. I couldn’t believe the information was right here in the New York.

The patent below is the one she submitted in 1881.

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