Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography

Kate Culkin, Author
Kate Culkin, Univ. of Massachusetts, $26.95 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-55849-839-6
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Hardcover - 219 pages - 978-1-55849-838-9
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American artist Harriet Hosmer (1830–1908) was one of the most famous female American sculptors of the 19th century, friend of Robert and Elizabeth Browning and professionally supported by such prominent women as Lydia Maria Child and Susan B. Anthony. Adventurous and outspoken, Hosmer was aided by her wealthy New England family's financial support and her own social connections to launch her successful career as an artist, although she was virtually forgotten until the 1990s. In this fluid and lucid biography, historian Culkin aims to establish Hosmer as "a woman whose biography opens a window onto her time." Some of its most interesting aspects concern Hosmer as a woman attracted to other women who challenged gender conventions in appearance and behavior. While Hosmer's story is potentially fascinating, and she was a woman who skillfully used social and even romantic connections to advance her career, Culkin does not provide cultural history in enough depth, and some of her extrapolations linking Culkin's artistic intentions with her gender and sexuality are not fully convincing. More monograph than complete cultural biography, this will be of great interest to art historians of the period and scholars of 19th-century American women's history. 30 illus. (Nov.)
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