I enjoy reading about people's lives, people that have achieved something, so I was quite intrigued when I coincidentally found this book a few weeks after discovering who Edmonia Lewis was, an American sculptor from African origins whose life began in the middle of the 19th century. Her interest in sculpture came to the fore when studying under Edward Augustus Brackett, a renowned sculptor from that period, with Civil War and African/American heritage at the fore.
The influences and inspiration from her early works were quite revealing and perhaps not too surprising of that era and it soon came to pass that a considerable reputation was in the making and the eventual worldwide notoriety followed.
If you are not of an academic or scholarly mind, you might find this of little interest or value and that is fair enough as it is not intended to be "light reading". With many modern biographies there is usually a mixture of the life with humor attached somewhere but this has a far more serious tone throughout. However, if you are of an academic or scholarly mind, or even just have a general or passing interest in history, then this should be on your list of books to read.
On a final note, the one thing that stood out above everything else was the depth of research that must have been required to complete this work. It is easy enough to track down Edmonia Lewis on Google but that barely scratches the surface. The amount of research is something I have a great deal of admiration for and I am guessing finding a lot of this information was probably not easy so full marks must go to Harry and Albert Henderson.
Edmonia Lewis, a female sculptor, of African and Indian descent, succeeded at her craft when societal customs of the late 1800s prohibited women from gaining recognition, let alone respect, for their achievements. She overcame many obstacles on her quest to become an artist, which of course, makes for a great story.
In a time when women artists were only thought capable of being mere copyists, Edmonia Lewis courageously blazed her own path with a helping hand early on from a generous older brother. She rose from her background as an orphan, to a young woman wrongly kicked out of Oberlin College, to a largely self-taught sculptor who molded the word to fit her view rather than sacrifice her gift to satisfy the standards of the elite.
Albert Henderson has painstakingly finished decades of research started by his father Harry Henderson, a writer, and Romare Howard Bearden, an artist. The role of African Americans in art history has been previously overlooked until recent decades, and the authors certainly righted numerous omissions. The documentation of Edmonia's life and achievements, as collected in this biography, certainly makes the case for her place in the canon.
Her fascinating story is documented by a wealth of primary and secondary sources. Numerous pictures of her sculptures appear throughout the book and bring her work to life for the reader. As someone trained in research methods, I can attest to the time and effort needed to bring this book to publication.
This biography is certainly for a specialized audience, but even for casual readers of biographies and memoirs, it holds a certain appeal. However, even though it is classified as a narrative biography, don't expect to find extended scenes of improvised dialogue or re-imagined day to day occurrences fleshed out by artistic license. The book remains academic and serious in nature throughout, but with conjecture here and there concerning what Edmonia must have been thinking and feeling.
One thing is for certain, this biography is a story that needed to be told, and thanks to the diligence of the Albert Henderson, the story of Edmonia Lewis has been collected for ages to come, and her place in art history is now firmly secured.
A complimentary copy was provided by the author in exchange for this review. JeriWB.com 5.0 Stars ("Loved It")
Edmonia Lewis amazes me in how she came to prominence as an artist in a world dominated by white men. This book conveys her extraordinary efforts to create neoclassical statues in white marble, with very few people cheering her on. A sculptor needs strength to swing the mallet against stone, and a gentle touch, as one mis-stroke can ruin all. I appreciated the immense research put into discovering a woman who left few tracks, and stories that sometimes conflicted. We learn some about that important hunt as well as the amazing sculptor whose story is brought back to life.
If you don't know about this remarkable American artist, and if you are interested in art, feminist issues, native and/or black struggles, or nineteenth century America in general, you will find this a fascinating read. What this woman achieved and the high level of her work is astounding, especially considering all the obstacles to her gender and mixed-race heritage.
5.0 out of 5 starsI actually would rate it a 10 star.. ...
8 May 2015 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I actually would rate it a 10 star... I've been waiting for over 25 years to learn more about my Sheroe Edmonia Lewis, and I've been sharing the info about this book, which I just completed on Monday, for over a week. My HEARTFELT THANKS to the authors.