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Women Artists of the Harlem Renaissance$
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Amy Helene Kirschke

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781628460339

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2015

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781628460339.001.0001

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Lifting as She Climbed: Mary Edmonia Lewis, Representing and Representative

Lifting as She Climbed: Mary Edmonia Lewis, Representing and Representative

(p.22) Chapter Two Lifting as She Climbed: Mary Edmonia Lewis, Representing and Representative
Women Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

Kirsten Pai Buich

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter describes the life of Mary Edmonia Lewis as a sculptor, and her expatriation to Rome. She trained as a teacher at Oberlin College, as an artist in Boston, and then taught newly freed slaves in Virginia. She was the epitome of the accomplished individual African American. In the nineteenth century, education was very important for the African Americans because it meant more than getting a good job: it also meant the right to be treated and considered as equal. Lewis first became interested in art in Oberlin College. Her first known work was probably a drawing of the muse “Urania,” given as a present to a friend. She left for Boston in 1864 and started a career as a sculptor. She also studied under Edward Bracket, but later left, probably because of her stereotypical Indianness attitude of transracial friendship. In 1865, she left for Italy to complete her education. It was here in Rome that Lewis fully considered herself a sculptor because it was in Italy where she saw and was influenced by many women artists. After her time in Italy, she once again returned to Virginia to teach freed slaves which she saw was a way of giving back to the community some of her good fortune.

Keywords:   Urania, Edward Bracket, abolitionists, Italy, education

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