Monthly Archives: July 2009

Abastenia St. Leger Eberle

EberleWindyDoorst3pAbastenia St. Leger Eberle (1878–1942) was a native of Webster City, Iowa. She initially studied to become a professional musician, but eventually enrolled in the Art Students League in New York.

She achieved early success with her sculpture “Men and Bull,” created in collaboration with Anna Hyatt and shown at the 1904 exhibition of the Society of American Artists. In 1906 she was elected to the National Sculpture Society.

St. Leger Eberle worked in a style related to Art Nouveau and the New Sculpture movement. She produced mainly portrait sculpture and decorative work, some of which is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Her most famous piece, “The White Slave,” was exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show in New York, and caused “a storm of violent controversy.” The sculpture represented a nude young girl being literally led into prostitution, which at the time was euphemistically called white slavery.

Following this success she created a number of sculptures of working class children from the Lower East Side, depicting them at play and work. These represented “the vitality of the city’s immigrant population”. By 1930 she was forced to leave New York because of financial and health problems and settled in Westport, Connecticut.

Eberle believed that art should have a social function, writing that artists “had no right to work as an individualist with no responsibility to others. [Artists] must see for people – reveal them to themselves and each other.”

Pictured: “A Windy Doorstep”

Grace Storey Putnam

Putnam_ByeLoSculptor Grace Storey Putnam is  one of the most well-known doll designers of all time.

Born in San Diego, CA on March 16, 1877, Grace Storey wanted to become an artist since the age of eight. She was a student in the art school in San Diego run by Maud McMullan when she met sculptor Arthur Putnam. They were married in 1899 and moved to San Francisco where her husband pursued an art career while Grace raised the couple’s children. After their divorce in 1915, she gave painting and drawing lessons and began sculpting dolls to support her family.

In 1920 Putnam visited a Salvation Army day nursery in Los Angeles where she studied a 3-day old sleeping girl. Using clay she quickly worked at the baby’s side to sculpt its likeness. Putnam often remarked that she wanted the doll to be as lifelike as possible, unlike “prettier” dolls of the day. The doll was a huge success, and was distributed by the New York firm, George Borgfeldt and Company, distributors of Rose O’Neill’s Kewpies and other well-known American dolls.

Grace married sculptor Eugene Morahan in 1927 in New York; they were divorced in 1941. Her last years were spent in Malibu, CA; she died there on Feb. 26, 1947.

Pictured: 1922 wax head Bye-Lo Baby cast from Putnam’s orignial, in the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana.

Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson

KosciuszkoTheo Alice Ruggles Kitson (1871 – 1932), also known as Tho. A. R. Kitson, was an American sculptor born in Brookline, Massachusetts. As a young child she displayed artistic talent, but when her mother attempted to enroll her in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, she was informed that the program did not accept female students.

She began studying with sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson in 1886, and married him in 1893. In 1899, she won honorable mention at the Salon des Artistes Francais, and in 1904 won a bronze medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair. After the Kitsons separated in 1909, she moved to Farmington, where she maintained a studio until her 1932 death in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the course of her career she created many public monuments, both with her husband and on her own. Her best known sculptures are “The Hiker,” a monument commemorating the soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and the Boxer Rebellion, and a monument to Thaddeus Kosciuszko in Boston’s Public Garden (pictured).

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Enigma of American Women Sculptors

When I think of the  large number of women sculptors in America in the 19th and early 20th century, I find them an empowering delight and also an enigma. In a time when women’s aspirations generally were limited to home and family, these women sculptors seem to me a kind of seismic anomaly. The boldness of their accomplishments is pushed into high relief (pardon the bad pun) on the dull plain of female possibility, not least because many of them received recognition in the form of patronage and publicity little different from their male peers.

Some of these women never married, and others (Harriet Hosmer and Emma Stebbins, for example) were gay. Hosmer and Stebbins lived in an expatriate micro-society of their own creation in Rome, and were never subject to the toil of traditional marriage and family life.

Of those who married, we know that Vinnie Ream Hoxie was forbidden by her husband to work after her marriage. He relented when Vinnie became ill with the kidney disease that eventually caused her death, and  constructed a harness-like seat so Vinnie could be winched up to the top to of her final, large-scale piece. Evelyn Longman Batchelder, on the other hand, was encouraged by her husband to pursue a career and set up a studio after their marriage.

Other sculptors, like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Anna Hyatt Huntington had the (vast) personal means to maintain several studios and hire as much help as was needed to complete their monument-sized work. Anna Hyatt Huntington in particular had a spacious studio complex and surrounded herself with what seems like a small army of models, students, and assistants. Others came from families of modest means and earned their own living. Evelyn Longman worked in a dry goods store by day to pay for her evening sculpture classes at the Chicago Art Institute. Farmgirl Vinnie Ream (often described as unscrupulously using her feminine “wiles”) enlisted the aid of President Lincoln precisely because she was a poor girl making her own way in the world.

In the years after the Civil War, when the United States was becoming a world power, public acknowledgement of national triumphs and tragedies seemed to require larger-than-life memorialization.  Both male and female sculptors employed large studios to satisfy demand for war memorials, equestrian monuments, and funerary sculpture, as well as portrait busts for the wealthy and well-known.

But the question I keep coming back to is: why, comparatively, were there so many women, and why were they well accepted in a male-dominated field? In an age when women were denied entrance to most professional schools, many young women sculptors were accepted and nurtured by successful male sculptors and learned their trade in the commercial studios of men like Lorado Taft, Henry Hudson Kitson,  Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Daniel Chester French, and August Rodin. Was it that women sculptors offered such a remarkable exception to normal roles that they fell completely outside the pale and so became oddly exempt from society’s repressive expectations?

Unlike the handwork of unknown 19th-century women, sculpture exists in sturdy bronze and marble and–while occasionally displaced or damaged like Edmonia Lewis’s masterpiece, “Death of Cleopatra”–stands literally in your face, in the town square, or even in Central Park. Misattribution occurs (no one I spoke to at Bethesda Fountain ever knew that “Angel of the Waters” was by a woman), but the work itself can’t be denied.


Forton is a non-toxic, ultra strong, very hard, weatherproof and odorless material casting system (basically hyrdrocal supplemented with dry melamine, a liquid polymer, and fiberglas). Casting methods are essentially the same as  urethane or polyester resin. FMG can be slush cast (hollow), hand laid-up, sprayed through the proper equipment or poured for solid casts. Repairs are easier to make when using FMG versus a casting made of polyester resin or epoxy, and Forton can be shaped with plaster tools.

The Pink House Studio sells Forton casting kits and supplies. The second link is a review and basic how-to of the process by a sculptor who does life casting.